Rafael Gomez and volunteers from this site are hosting a Forum on Nutrition Wednesday evening, November 30, 2005 from 7 to 8p.m. at the McDaniels Auditorium [Map]. The event will discuss the following questions:
- Should schools serve lunch?
- What kind of food would be best to serve?
- How do students feel about their lunch at school?
- If the public feels strongly about improving what is being served in their school, how could they raise the profile of this issue?
“Larger numbers of young people are joining gangs, including more girls,” Falk said, highlighting information in a new report by the Dane County Youth Prevention Task Force. “We are renewing our efforts to help keep young people from joining gangs.”
Stephen Blue, delinquency services manager and co-chair of the task force, said about 4 percent of the area’s young people, or about 1,400 kids in all, identify themselves as being members of gangs.
“The kids are disenfranchised, not getting support,” Blue said.
Rafael Gomez and volunteers from this site hosted a Gangs and School Violence Forum on September 23, 2005. Audio and Video archives are online here, along with notes from that event.
By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; A01
The Bush administration has begun to ease some key rules for the controversial No Child Left Behind law, opening the door to a new way to rate schools, granting a few urban systems permission to provide federally subsidized tutoring and allowing certain states more time to meet teacher-quality requirements.
The Education Department’s actions could signal a new phase for school improvement efforts nearly four years after the law’s enactment. Taken together, these actions amount to a major response to critics who have called No Child Left Behind rigid and unworkable. They also help the administration combat efforts to amend the law in Congress.
Continue reading Bush Administration Grants Leeway on ‘No Child’ Rules
||Madison School Board Vice President Johnny Winston, Jr. is profiled in the current Isthmus. I’ll link to the article if and when it is available online.
It might be useful to visit my April, 2004 elections page to take a look at a pre-election video interview with Johnny. Our public schools have no shortage of challenges. I hope that Johnny plays a major role in these transformations.
Article scans: Cover | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3
November 17, 2005
TO: Members Wisconsin Legislature
FROM: Bob Lang, Director
SUBJECT: 2005-06 General School Aids Amounts for All School Districts
In response to requests from a number of legislators, this office has prepared information [PDF File] on the amount of general school aids to be received by each of the 426 school districts in 2005-06. This memorandum describes the three types of aid funded from the general school aids appropriation and the reductions made to general school aid eligibility related to the Milwaukee and Racine charter school program and the Milwaukee parental choice program. The attachment
provides data on each school district’s membership, equalized value, shared costs and general school aids payment, based on the October 15, 2005, equalization aid estimate prepared by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Full document on-line here.
According to the minutes of the November 10 meeting of the East task force:
Task Force members requested information on savings from [closing] specific schools.
Unfortunately, the minutes do not mention the “specific” schools. Can a member of the task force or someone who attended provide the names of those schools?
I also wonder whether the meetings are getting a bit contentious.
Continue reading Which East Side Schools Examined for Closing?
The United States will become a second-rate economic power unless it can match the educational performance of its rivals abroad and get more of its students to achieve at the highest levels in math, science and literacy. Virtually every politician, business leader and educator understands this, yet the country has no national plan for reaching the goal. To make matters worse, Americans have remained openly hostile to the idea of importing strategies from the countries that are beating the pants off us in the educational arena.
The No Child Left Behind Act, passed four years ago, was supposed to put this problem on the national agenda. Instead, the country has gotten bogged down in a squabble about a part of the law that requires annual testing in the early grades to ensure that the states are closing the achievement gap. The testing debate heated up last month when national math and reading scores showed dismal performance across the board.
Lurking behind these test scores, however, are two profoundly important and closely intertwined topics that the United States has yet to even approach: how teachers are trained and how they teach what they teach. These issues get a great deal of attention in high-performing systems abroad – especially in Japan, which stands light years ahead of us in international comparisons.
Continue reading Look to Japan for Better Schools?
Additional Charts: Enrollment Changes, Number of Minority Students | Enrollment Changes, Low Income
MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students – $13.16 Million Per Year*
MMSD reports that student population is declining. From the 2000-2001 school year through the 2003-2004 school year, MMSD lost 174 students. Did this happen in the areas surrounding MMSD? No. From the 2000-2001 through the 2003-2004 school year, the increase in non-MMSD public school student enrollment was 1,462 outside MMSD.
The property tax and state general fund revenue value of 174 students is $1.57 million per year in the 2003-2004 MMSD school year dollars (about $9,000 per student). For 1,462 students, the revenue value is $13.16 million per year. Put another way, the value of losing 174 students equals a loss of 26-30 teachers. A net increase of 1,462 students equals nearly 219 teachers. There are more subtleties to these calculations due to the convoluted nature of the revenue cap calculation, federal and state funds for ELL and special education, but the impact of losing students and not gaining any of the increase of students in the area is enormous.
Continue reading Where Have All the Students Gone?
It is the Davidsons’ other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds” (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. “By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities,” Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, “we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward.” Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious – and imperiled – resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the “supportive, advocating parent” they endorse.
Jan Davidson recently visited Madison. View her presentation: How to stop wasting our brightest young minds.
In the last five years, the La Follette High School Booster Club has paid for everything from bats to books.
They’ve raised more than $260,000 to pick up the tab for balls and jerseys, renovations of weight rooms and training rooms and even taxi fare for students who needed transportation to get eyeglasses, said Deb Slotten, president of the La Follette club.
But Slotten draws the line at paying overtime for a custodian to be at the high school so teams can practice on five days the Madison School District is closed for Thanksgiving and winter break.
And then there are costs the boosters simply don’t want to pay, such as the custodians who, administrators say, are required to be at the schools for practices during holiday breaks for contractual and safety reasons. The district’s contract with AFSCME Local 60 requires custodians – who are paid $16.54 to $25.81 an hour – to be paid double-time in addition to their holiday pay if they have to work on a district holiday, said Human Resources Director Bob Nadler.
District spending goes up annually, while enrollment has remained flat over the years. The debate is largely where the money goes. A great deal of information can be found via these links:
Following up on my 10/12/2005 Open Records request regarding closed discussions (particularly the terms) of the Madison School District’s purchase of land for a new elementary school on the far west side, I recently filed the following open records complaint with District Attorney Brian Blanchard: Background:
Continue reading My Open Records Complaint to DA Brian Blanchard
The Madison School District launches a very nice blog like page, including a syndication feed. Staff can submit articles and photographs, here.
Early in my career, I had to make a paradigm shift. Starting out, I thought my job was to tell people how to eat and I expected that they would eat as they “should”. Now I know that eating is a matter of taste and style and depends, for most people, to a lesser extent on nutrition facts. Although I’d love to be able to control what my clients eat, I have settled with the reality that I can’t even control what my dog eats! I buy Whole Foods dog food…he eats the white bread our neighbors toss on their lawn for the birds.
The point here is that your child’s eating style will be as unique as his appearance. It’s important that kids are provided with regular, fairly balanced meals and can choose what and how much to eat. It’s also important that they eat with others because meals are not just about consuming food. Once kids have meals that provide a framework for eating a variety of foods at predictable times, then the tendency to snack will lessen and cravings for processed foods will fade. Your child’s diet won’t be perfect, but he or she can still be perfectly healthy.
Continue reading Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?
Parent Group Presidents:
N.B. The Board’s discussion regarding animals in the classroom has been postponed until January.
Why does the Madison district spend more than the state average per pupil? One part of the answer is that our student enrollment differs significantly from the state average in areas which require more services (and therefore greater costs):
- Poverty Madison’s rate is 30% greater than the state’s average
- English Language Learners (ELL): our percentage is more than 300% greater than the state’s
Special Education the district has a higher percentage (16.8% vs. 12.6%) of students with special education needs – and a significantly higher percentage of high needs students. Of 389 students in the state identified with costs over $30,000 Madison has 109 (nearly 30%).
Continue reading Carol Carstensen’s Email Message to Parent Groups
“Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms” is a book by Diane Ravitch. On September 11, 2000, the Brookings Institute invited Ravitch for a discussion and public forum. Introductory remarks by Donna Shalala, then Secretary of HHS, and William Bennett, former Secretary of Education, preceded Ravitch’s presentation, and the question/answer session that followed. Here
The basic premise of the book, an in depth study of the history, is that the reforms moved away from traditional rigorous academic standards, into social reform, causing the schools to fail for all kids, and therefore society. She also illustrates the how political labeling such as “liberal” and “conservative”, “reform” and “traditional” have played an important role in school’s failures.
Shalala’s opening remarks should be familiar to those of us who followed her tenure as UW-Madison Chancellor. She emphasizes “we are not fair or honest with American kids about how hard learning is”, citing her view that teacher should learn from coaches, who understand the role that practice, repetition, and small corrections play in achievement and reaching perfection.
Bennet’s remarks are, from my view, the typically political “liberal v conservative” tripe that he is famous for, even as the issue of political labeling in the reform movement has been a contributing factor in educational quality failures.
The Madison Metropolitan School District and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County are expanding the SOL Mentor Program to Leopold Elementary and Cherokee Middle Schools. The SOL Mentor Program continues to serve Latino, Spanish-speaking students at Frank Allis Elementary and Sennett Middle Schools and aims to match an additional 75 students with adult volunteers in the community over the next three years.
Continue reading MMSD and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County Expand Mentoring Program
More day care funding urged for low-income kids
By Pat Schneider, the Capital Times
November 17, 2005
Every kid deserves a piece of the pie.
That was the message Wednesday, when members of Dane County United joined with the Bright and Early Coalition to put out the message that more public money is needed to support quality child care programs for low-income families.
One half of Madison children enrolled in day care are in city-accredited programs, said Vernon Blackwell, a member of Dane County United, a grass-roots social justice advocacy group.
Continue reading Dane County United Calls for Child Care Funding
November 10 Focus Group Responses (Background): [html version] [PDF]
The school district is continually working to build more rigor into the learning experiences that students have. Rigor is defined as commitment to a core subject matter knowledge, a high demand for thinking, and an active use of knowledge. When you think of a rigorous academic curriculum in the middle school, what would it look like?
On Friday November 18th at Madison Ice Arena [map] the Madison Metro Lynx invites you to attend their game versus Superior High School at 6:30 p.m. This is the first girls ice game in the history of the Madison Metropolitan School District!
Madison Metro Lynx is a seven school cooperative effort of the MMSD with Madison Memorial serving as lead school. Skaters also attend Middleton, Waunakee and Monona Grove.
For these girls and many other younger female hockey players in Dane County, this sport will provide an additional meaningful opportunity as they progress through their high school years.
We hope to see you as the Madison Metro Lynx play in their first game in their inaugural season.
All right, gice and galz. I been called in. Sam Spade, that is. No more pussyfootin’ around like that little Nancy Drew kinda mystery ya been seein’. Dis is a tough one. Ain’t none of ya gonna’ figur it out. But I’m here ta make ya try.
When da Board of Education passed the MMSD buget on the first go round, that is, da balanced budget, da buget supposedly had 3781.23 FTEs (that’s full time equivalent postions, for you beginners), compared to da 04-05 school year which supposedly had 3880.86 FTEs, and compared to da “same service” budget which supposedly had 3914.86 FTEs. Ya followin’ me?
When da same said Board of Education passed da final buget, how many of dem so-called FTEs did it approve?
Ta give ya a hint, click here ta see a chart that shows some of da FTEs, but it’s got lots of blanks, and I don’t mean blanks in my .38. That’s fully loaded.
The winnin’ PI is da one can fill in da most blanks based on da MMSD buget documents.
Knock yerselfs out!
Watch this event (about 90 minutes) or Listen (mp3 audio)
|A public forum was held to update the community on plans to address overcrowding in the West-Memorial attendance area at Leopold Elementary School Tuesday evening. Troy reports 150 people attended (in the comments, take a look at the video clip for details), rather decent, given some other events I’ve participated in – much more than my quick estimate of 40, which was wrong. [Editor: gotta love the quick feedback loop. Anyone else have a count? :)] In any event, substantive questions were discussed and raised.
A number of ideas were shared along with quite a few public comments. I’ve summarized a few below (from my notes) (there were many more – have a look at the video):
- Why does Van Hise Elementary have such a small low income population relative to other schools?
- What data supports the creation of “paired schools” from a student achievement perspective?
- Why are we considering busing children all the way to Marquette / Lapham [map]?
- (this comment was made after the official event closed) Why won’t the MMSD build a school (farther south) in Fitchburg?
- I asked: “Why were no scenarios / ideas presented vis a vis the nearby [map] Wright Middle School Facility?”
This 3 page pdf Forum / idea summary was sent to all Thoreau parents Tuesday. UPDATE: Arlene Silveira mentions, via email, that she thought about 120 attended.
Elaine Korry, All Things Considered:
A new study details obstacles in union contracts that schools in big cities face in terms of being able to hire and fire teachers. In as many as 40 percent of teacher openings in five large districts, the study says, school administrators had no say in the selection process.
audio Much more, here.
Last June, the Madison Board of Education ratified the 2005-07 collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers, Inc. The agreement commits the district and the teachers union to form a task force to identify potential cost savings from changes in health insurance coverage. If the task force finds savings, the parties may renegotiate the health care provisions. The deadline for this work is February of 2006.
Months ago, both sides named their representatives to the task force. Months ago, the Board’s attorney declared that the task force meetings—–prior to possible renegotiation—–would be public meetings. Five months have passed without a public meeting of the task force. The Human Resources Committee, which has oversight of this process, has not mentioned the topic or called for a report from administration. In fact, the board has received more updates from the administraton about discussions on the future of guinea pigs in classrooms than it has on possible savings in health care costs. Now only a few months remain to collect information on this complex topic, analyze the options and, if possible, renegotiate the health insurance provisions in the two-year agreement.
Continue reading Board of Education in No Rush to Explore Health Insurance Savings
I’m not sure if this is still the case, but at one time, MMSD offered a college entrance test prep course in an 8-week summer session. But for many reasons, needing to work among them, not all students can take advantage of this opportunity.
What if high school seniors or adult volunteers tutored their younger classmates, especially those who can’t afford the time or the money to take the Kaplan courses? How about a service project where students or adult volunteers offer a weekly review after school or (if student-run,during the lunch hour)?
In a perfect world, everyone would be taking these tests “cold”, but the reality is that a tremendous amount of coaching takes place. Practicing the test format alone is helpful.
ACT test prep for low income students
MIDDLE- and upper-class teenagers get lots of extra help in the college application process. They get personal SAT tutors and SAT prep courses, they get assistance on their résumés and college essays from writing coaches and parents. They have guidance counselors and teachers with time to help.
The poor tend not to be so lucky. They can’t afford tutors or prep courses, and often don’t have parents who’ve been to college to guide them. Their high schools are more likely to be understaffed. North High School here, which is three-quarters black, has two guidance counselors for 1,100 students.
But a nonprofit program started here five years ago, Admission Possible, aims to give 600 poor teenagers a year (average family income of $25,000) the kind of edge that wealthy students routinely enjoy.
Continue reading Test Prep Help for Students Who Can’t Afford Kaplan
As I listened to the Pam Nash’s (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools) presentation on the Middle School Redesign to the Performance and Achievement Committee last night, I was thinking of an academic/elective middle school framework applied across the district that would be notable in its rigor and attractiveness to parents and some next steps. Personally, I consider fine arts and foreign language as core subject areas that all students need and benefit from in Grades 6-8.
Have at it and comment with your wish list/ideas, education and support for students, developing a few more options/strategies.
Possible “common” structure in middle school that next year could look like:
6th – math, social studies, language arts, science on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is A/B phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units).
7th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 4 one quarter units)
8th – math, social studies, language arts, science, foreign language on a daily basis plus two unified art periods (one is a/b phys ed and music plus 2 half semester units
Continue reading Strong, Consistent Middle School Academics
You might agree or disagree with poet Sharon Olds on the war in Iraq, but you have to be touched by her description of writing by patients with severe disabilities. Read the full open letter in The Nation.
When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit–and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person’s unique story and song.
The $2 million for the student information system will be spread out over six budget years. Assistant Superintendent for Business Roger Price and planning and research director Kurt Kiefer said the system will pay for itself through efficiency and reduced staffing needs.
Parents would begin to see the impact of the new online system in the 2006-2007 school year, Kiefer said. He warned that training and implementation of the new computer software would take time and be “painful” for a period. The system is similar to one already being used in the Middleton-Cross Plains school district.
When it is fully operational, parents will be able to use a computer to see their child’s grades, progress reports, attendance and behavior reports. Students will be able to examine course schedules and register over the new system. Class attendance reporting will be fully computerized with the system.
Board member Ruth Robarts questioned how much parents would be able to use the system to communicate with teachers or to see course assignments. Rainwater said there are labor union contract issues related to what teachers could be required to do in those areas.
Ruth identified a critical issue in the successfull implementation of such a system.
These are the figures from the DPI Web site on minimum and basic 10th grade readers at West.
Minimum – 5%
Basic – 11%
Minimum – 22%
Basic – 24%
Combined Groups(Small Number)
Minimum – 25%
Basic – 34%
How will the core curriculum teach them to read and write?
Here is the full text of SLC Evaluator Bruce King’s recent report on the plan to implement a common English 10 course at West HS.
Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School
The 10th Grade English Course
M.Bruce King, Project Evaluator
2 November 2005
The development and implementation of the common 10th grade English course is a significant initiative for two related reasons. First, the course is central to providing instruction in the core content areas within each of the four small learning communities in grade 10, as outlined in the SLC grant proposal. And second, the course represents a major change from the elective course system for 10th graders that has been in existence at West for many years. Given the importance of this effort, we want to understand what members of the English Department thought of the work to date.
Continue reading Evaluation of the SLC Project at West High School
This was forwarded to the West High listserve with the request that it be posted as part of the current discussion about changes at West High.
When I read the anonymous email from a current West freshman who is defined as “talented and gifted,” I could not help but feel that I should write about my own personal experiences. I am in the exact same position as the previous writer (a current freshman at West High, defined as “talented and gifted.”), but I have completely opposite views. My time at West so far has been quite enjoyable. While some of the core freshman classes are indeed rather simple, I do not feel that my assignments are “busy work.” While most classes may be easy, they still teach worthwhile information.
Continue reading A different student viewpoint of West High
The 2006 New Wisconsin Promise Conference, Closing the Achievement Gap, will be held at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison on January 11-12, 2006.
The conference will focus on strategies for educators who are looking for help in meeting the progressively higher academic expectations of No Child Left Behind.
Continue reading New Wisconsin Promise Conference: Closing the Achievement Gap
Send this web site to all the middle school, future middle school parents, and concerned community members you can e-mail.
Pam Nash and the middle school committee are seeking input from parents and this is our chance to give them feedback. While I find the survey would be on the “How to Not Make a Survey” curriculum in my graduate school class on Effective Survey’s, I say congrates to the BOE and administration for allowing the community to give some feedback and input on this development. While it seems a little forced, quick and for some reason I am unclear why this issue is being discussed for middle schools that are functioning at a high level,(in other words let’s fix the problem’s where they exist, even if it means more resources, and not mess with what is working) I want all parents and those in the community interested to voice their thoughts and opinions. Please print off this survey and let the district know we want great middle schools, that reflect their community, not carbon copies of mediocre education.
Wendy Kopp (President and Founder of Teach for America):
According to the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup survey, the most recent of which was released in September, most Americans cite a lack of parental involvement, as well as problems in students’ home life and upbringing and their lack of interest and motivation as the most important reasons for the huge gap between the achievement levels of students in upper- and middle-class neighborhoods and those in poor neighborhoods. More than 75% of those polled said they believe that white students and students of color have the same academic opportunities.
In contrast, Teach for America corps members, who are in those poor neighborhoods every school day, say the key to closing that gap is to train and employ better teachers and improve the quality of the leaders who make decisions in schools and school districts — while simultaneously ensuring that teachers, principals and parents expect the kids to meet challenging academic standards.
Much more, including this, here:
Funding, in itself, is not the answer. Teacher quality and expectations of students outranked funding as both causes of and solutions to the gap. And as corps members spend more time in the classroom, the priority they place on funding gives way to other factors, such as school leadership. While some of their proposed solutions may require further investment, corps members express skepticism about increasing funding without addressing current allocation of resources.
Parent Alan Sanderfoot wrote a letter to the Isthmus Editor on Katherine Esposito’s recent article: Ed Lite: Madison Middle Schools Serve Up an Uninspiring Academic Menu:
Thank you for publishing Katherine Esposito’s article about Madison’s middle schools (“Ed Lite,” Nov. 11, page 12). Please allow me, however, to correct some mischaracterizations in her piece.
On the contrary, my daughter Olivia did not “bail” from Sherman when she transferred to O’Keeffe. Her mother and I worked diligently during her entire 6th grade year at Sherman trying to get the school and teachers to address her unique academic and social needs. Throughout the year, we met with Olivia’s team of three teachers, the learning coordinator, the guidance counselor and administrators. Much was discussed, but little action followed.
Continue reading Sanderfoot on Ed Lite
A letter to the NYTImes: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/14/opinion/l14educ.htm
To the Editor:
Diane Ravitch (“Every State Left Behind,” Op-Ed, Nov. 7) hits the nail on the head when she suggests that we should not sacrifice our country’s future for low academic standards and demands for good news.
A particular problem not addressed by most American schools is that our gifted youth are told to wait for their classmates to catch up with them and not to rush their learning. America is wasting precious talent because it keeps its gifted children from soaring.
Stringent federal standards are great, but why does No Child Left Behind have to mean “every gifted child kept behind”?
Mary Beth Miotto
Northborough, Mass., Nov. 7, 2005
The writer is vice president, Massachusetts Association for Gifted Children.
The Madison Metropolitan School District:
The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) honors individuals for service beyond the call of duty. It is considered to be the most prestigious of the recognition awards offered by the Madison Metropolitan School District. Distinguished Service Awards may be to employees who have served at least ten years with the MMSD in each of the following categories: elementary, middle and high school teachers, administrators, support personnel clerical/technical employees, custodial/building services/trades personnel, educational assistants and food service staff. Special awards are also given to employee teams, citizen volunteers and high schools seniors involved in community service.
To nominate someone you must answer five questions about the nominee and submit three letters of support. Anyone may submit a nomination. Self-nominations are not accepted. Please print the nomination form available below and carefully read the guidelines on page two of the nomination form.
I have several people in mind.
Fascinating 600K PDF (I would be in trouble)
Active Citizens for Education recently commissioned a custom report from WISTAX. This report compares demographics, income / wealth, spending, staffing ratios and test scores between the Madison School District and Appleton, Green Bay, Janesville, Kenosha, Middleton-Cross Plains, Milwaukee, Racine, Sun Prairie and Verona.
- Income and Wealth
- Staffing Ratios
- Test Scores
- Test Scores (more)
On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
Continue reading When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
I believe a relevant and challenging curriculum is the #1 priority for any educational organization. There have been a number of questions raised over the years regarding the Madison School District’s curriculum, including Math, English and Fine Arts and the recent controversial changes at Sherman Middle School (more details in Kathy Esposito’s recent Isthmus article).
The District is currently conducting a Middle School Curriculum Review, lead by Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash (Formerly Principal of Memorial High School). Pam lead a Parent Forum Thursday evening, which I attended (one of about 28 participants). (7MB video clip of Pam kicking off the Forum). The goal of this event was to collect feedback from parents regarding these five questions (pdf version):
- The school district is continually working to build more rigor into the learning experiences that students have. Rigor is defined as commitment to a core subject matter knowledge, a high demand for thinking, and an active use of knowledge. When you think of a rigorous academic curriculum in the middle school, what would it look like?
- What experiences do you want your child to have in middle school to enhance his or her social and emotional growth?
- What are your hopes and dreams for your child in middle school?
- What are your greatest concerns for your child in middle school?
- If you could design Madison middle schools in any way you wanted, what would they be like?
Pam mentioned that the parent comments would be posted on the district’s website, hopefully next week. She also said that the district would post these questions online, in an interactive way so that parents who were unable to attend Thursday’s event might add their comments.
My notes follow:
- Superintendent Art Rainwater wants the middle school curriculum task force to report back to him by mid December (2005).
- The task force “design teams” recently broke up into “work teams”.
- Recommendations will affect middle school allocations.
- I asked Pam when this process began. She said it started one month ago.
- Pam mentioned that they hope to pull the parent group together one more time, in December.
I was initially displeased that the group of 28 participants was broken up (I was interested in hearing all of the conversations). However, I thought that the format was rather effective in obtaining comments from all participants (at least those in my group). Kudos to Pam for collecting a good deal of information.
I spoke briefly with Pam when the event concluded. I mentioned that it appears to me, a layman, that it would be challenging to implement major changes via a two month task force. However, incremental changes occuring via the allocations are certainly possible (for better or worse).
I heard many useful suggestions on these questions and will point to them when available on the District’s website.
Learn more about the “Middle Grades Design Team” via this Board presentation (800K PDF file) Email your comments on this initiative to the Madison School Board: firstname.lastname@example.org
African-American rates increased from 27.5 percent to 49.7 percent in the four years and from 29.8 percent to 50 percent for Hispanic students. Among white students algebra completion rates had improved from 68.9 percent to 82.6 percent, the report said.
Related: this week’s Isthmus article on Middle School Curriculum.
These report items were interesting as well:
- In 10 years the number of African-American students has increased from 4,126 to 5,216, while the number of Hispanic students has increased from 957 to 2,845. White enrollment has gone from 17,937 to 13,712 in the decade. Asian enrollment has grown from 1,885 to 2,569.
- The 94 percent enrollment goal was met at the elementary (95.1 percent) and (94.4 percent) middle school levels. But high school attendance dipped last year to 92.5 percent overall, including an 86.8 percent rate for pupils from low-income families, the report said. The best overall attendance for high schools was 93.6 percent in 2002-2003.
A story in today’s Wisconsin State Journal reports carries a headline saying “Schools show big boost in minority staff.” It’s just not so.
The MMSD chose to give the paper the number of minority employees in various job categories in 1987 and 2005 — ignoring an MMSD press release issued October 9, 1995, comparing 1987 and 1994.
If the recent release had compared 1994 and 2005, the comparison would have shown a decrease in the numbers and percentages of minorities among administrators from 23 (17%) in 1994 to 22 (15%) in 2005. Minority employees in clerical and technical catetories decreased from 47 (18%) in 1994 to 15 in 2005. (The press release did not provide a percentage for clerical technical categories.) Among custodians the number of minority employees remained unchanged: 37 (15%) in 1994 compared to 37 (17.7%) in 2005.
Click here for a Word file with numbers and percentages for all of the categories, including figures showing increases in the proportion of minority employees in other categories.
David Weinberger on the Irving School District’s 1 to 1 Laptop Implementation:
Darrell Lynn of Apple, a sponsor of the event, introduces Angus King, former two-term, independent governor of Maine. King appears via his $129 iSite. He talks about the insights that guided him to the laptop policy.
First, he has no idea what the economy of the US and of Maine will be in ten years. But, he says he does know that whatever happens will require more education and a higher level of comfort with technology.
Second, every governor chases quality jobs for their state. “You don’t get ahead by keeping up.”
Third, everything governments do is incremental. Baby steps, not real change. In 1999, Maine had a surplus. So, King thought about how it could be used to bring change.
In 1996, he had lunch with Seymour Papert who told him that reducing the ratio of students to computers wouldn’t matter until the ratio is 1:1.
So, Maine started by giving laptops to every kid in grades 7-8. King thought this would be well received, but it wasn’t. He blurted out, in response to a question, that the computers would belong to the students, not the school. He says, “I got the living xxxx kicked out of me.” [xxxx Barrier transgressed at 9:15am…and by a former governor!] The emails to his officce were 10:1 against. He persevered. (PS: The schools own the laptops.)
At some point, textbooks will be gone. I do generally like this sort of thing and perhaps it’s fundamental to addressing some of the challenges Kathy Esposito noted in her excellent article on Madison’s middle school curriculum. There’s no doubt that for someone who knows how to use a computer effectively, the amount of information one can learn and use is simply extraordinary. My youngest found a very well done learning spanish podcast on itunes just the other day – free and simply delightful!!!
This week the Wisconsin Assembly passed two bills that could expand charter school opportunities in this state. The Legislative Committee of the Madison School Board will review these bills on December 5.
Assembly Bill 730 proposes to amend current law to allow 5 UW-System 4-year universities, in addition to UW-Milwaukee and UW-Parkside, to each sponsor not more than 5 charter schools. The vote to pass was 56-36.
Assembly Bill 698 would amend current law to raise the student enrollment cap from 400 to 480 for the elementary charter school (21st Century Preparatory School) sponsored by UW-Parkside. The vote on this bill was 62-29.
Continue reading Wisconsin Assembly Passes Two Bills Expanding Charter School Opportunities
On Tuesday, the voters of Dover, PA, voted out 8 school board candidates running who had promoted intelligent design in the science curriculum.
Meg Cooper, parent, gave permission for her observation of the proposed West HS 10th grade English curriculum to be posted:
Has anyone else noticed that 80% or more of the proposed new West HS English 10 curriculum consists of male authors? Perhaps it should be called The Male American Experience/Justice/Identity relating to The Male American Dream…! I was very shocked. It appears so traditional (in a bad way) and excludes half [the femamle’s perspective] of the American experience. How can this possibly be a better program than the current English 10 electives at West HS?
WisPolitics Referenda Roundup:
Earlier this afternoon, the Wisconsin Assembly passed the following two legislative bills which would expand the Wisconsin charter school law:
AB 698 proposes to amend current law to raise the student enrollment cap from 400 to 480 for the elementary charter school (21st Century Preparatory School) sponsored by UW-Parkside. The vote on the passage motion was 62-Ayes and 29-Noes.
AB 730 proposes to amend current law to allow 5 UW-System 4-year universities, in addition to UW-Milwaukee and UW-Parkside, to each sponsor not more than 5 charter schools. The vote on the passage motion was 56-Ayes and 36-Noes. In a related development earlier this week, the Senate Higher Education and Tourism Committee recommended passage of Senate Bill 96 (i.e. Senate companion / identical bill to AB 730) on a vote of 4-Ayes (Senators Harsdorf, Kedzie, Kapanke and Plale) and 1-No (Senator Breske).
Both Assembly bills (AB 698 and AB 730) were messaged to the Senate.
A new ECS Issue Brief entitled “A State Policymaker’s Guide to Alternative Authorizers of Charter Schools” provides good info about the rationale for multiple-authorizers. You’ll find the ECS Issue Brief at the Education Commission of the State’s website — http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/64/69/6469.pdf
The State Legislature’s current floorperiod ends today. The next two-week floorperiod is scheduled for December 6 – 15, 2005. Then, the legislature will recess through the holidays … and resume floorsessions in the new year.
This was a good day at the Capitol for charter school friends. If you have an opportunity, please communicate special thanks to Representative Leah Vukmir and Senator Alberta Darling who are the lead authors of AB 730 and SB 96 (i.e. companion / identical bills to allow 5 UW System universities to sponsor charter schools); and thank Rep. Vos and Senator Stepp who are the lead authors of AB 698. Enjoy the moment!
A story by Steven Elbow from the Capital Times, November 10:
A brawl that police say was gang-related led to the arrest of four teenage boys Wednesday at Memorial High School.
Continue reading 4 arrested after brawl at Memorial
Press Release from the BOE Human Resources Committee:
The number of racial minorities employed by the Madison Metropolitan School District has increased substantially since 1987 according to a report released today. The data also includes information from 1994. “The Board of Education has made diversifying our workforce a strong priority, I am happy to see the increase in the numbers of staff that reflects the diversity of our schools” says Juan Jose Lopez, the Chair of the Human Resources Committee which also includes board members Shwaw Vang and Johnny Winston, Jr.
Continue reading Report on Minority Employees in the MMSD
In her posting, “Westside Land Purchase – was public if you were interested“, Marisue Horton suggests that I, as chair of the Madison School Board’s Legislative Committee “start making recommendations for change. Start changing the process instead of sitting around and bitching about it.”
I am not suggesting that we need new processes. Like Lawrie Kobza, I am advocating that the Madison School Board follow the spirit and letter of existing Wisconsin law. I agree with the principles of the Open Meeting law.
As the law states,
” [a] representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, [therefore]it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.” Only in specified exceptional cases may the school board go into closed sessions.
I also agree with Lawrie that the narrow exception allowing ongoing negotiations to be discussed behind closed doors did not apply to the October 10 meeting on the purchase of 8.3 acres of land near your home for a future elementary school. The Board’s attorneys disagree. The legal issue will not be resolved until, as Bill Keys recommended, an official complaint has been filed with the Dane County District Attorney and we have his opinion. Isthmus newspaper has filed that complaint and in due time we will have a ruling by a neutral legal authority.
In this case, the Open Meetings law protects the public’s interest in knowing how much the district planned to pay for this particular parcel and the conditions of the sale before the sale was complete. That interest was not respected. Maybe other sellers would have come forward with better offers, if they had known that we were poised to complete this purchase and were willing to sell the land back to them at less-than-appreciated value in the future. Maybe not. We will never know. Seven weeks passed between the signing of the deal by administration and the closed session meeting at which the board accepted the terms. The closing is not until November 15. What was the rush on November 7?
Isthmus, November 11, 2005, reports on the refusal of the MMSD administration and Board of Education to release details on a land purchase for a new school. Isthmus posted the full article and supporting documents in the Document Feed of thedailypage.com. Here are excerpts:
Jim Zellmer doesn’t know whether buying land for a new elementary school on the city’s far southwest side is a good idea. But he’s sure keeping the deal secret almost until the moment of final approval is a bad one. . . .
The deal was kept under wraps until 4:30 last Friday afternoon, when the school district put the contract into media folders just before closing for the weekend. At Monday’s meeting, Robarts and Kobza urged the board to delay approval for one week, to allow for public input, including that of a task force studying west-side school overcrowding. . . .
But Kobza’s motion failed on a 3-3 vote, with board members Bill Keys, Juan Jose Lopez and Johnny Winston Jr. opposed. Keys haughtily challenged critics of the secret deal to “go ahead and file charges”; Kobza urged members of the public to take up his suggestion.
On Wednesday, Isthmus followed through, asking Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard to investigate and prosecute. . . .
A PUBLIC FORUM will be held to update the community on plans to address overcrowding in the West-Memorial attendance area. Come to learn about options being considered AND to share your input!!
When: 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Where: Leopold Elementary school [Map]
Sponsors: Thoreau, Leopold, and Cherokee
LAST spring, when he was only a sophomore, Jim Munch received a plaque honoring him as top scorer on the high school math team here. He went on to earn the highest mark possible, a 5, on an Advanced Placement exam in calculus. His ambition is to become a theoretical mathematician.
So Jim might have seemed the veritable symbol for the new math curriculum installed over the last seven years in this ambitious, educated suburb of Rochester. Since seventh grade, he had been taking the “constructivist” or “inquiry” program, so named because it emphasizes pupils’ constructing their own knowledge through a process of reasoning.
Jim, however, placed the credit elsewhere. His parents, an engineer and an educator, covertly tutored him in traditional math. Several teachers, in the privacy of their own classrooms, contravened the official curriculum to teach the problem-solving formulas that constructivist math denigrates as mindless memorization.
“My whole experience in math the last few years has been a struggle against the program,” Jim said recently. “Whatever I’ve achieved, I’ve achieved in spite of it. Kids do not do better learning math themselves. There’s a reason we go to school, which is that there’s someone smarter than us with something to teach us.”
This sort of thing is happening in Madison as well. Much more here.
Our school staff certainly cannot meet the needs of children with mental illness. As a society we need to staff schools with mental health experts or examine new alternatives for educating children who pose challenges beyond our schools’ capabilities.
Read Andy Hall’s troubling story in the Wisconsin State Journal from October 25, 2005.
This anonymous entry is from a current 9th grader at West who shares their thoughts about the proposed changes in 10th grade English as well as lets us know how the current 9th grade core is experienced by students.
I am writing from the viewpoint of a gifted and talented 9th grader at West High who is stuck in the core program of English and History 9. “Stuck” is the perfect word for my situation. I am stuck in classes where brilliance is not only limited, but discouraged. I have been reprimanded by teachers for exceeding their expectations. Does West want to be a school known for restricting its gifted students?
Continue reading West’s Core Program: Enrichment, or Deprivation?
By Michele Munz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Oct. 30 2005
The gap in academic achievement between black and white students in the St. Louis area has decreased in the past five years, according to findings released Sunday of the first comprehensive study of school districts’ efforts to reduce the gap – but only because the academic performance of white students dropped more than that of black students.
The study concluded: “An alarming fact came forth: the decrease in the gap was not due to an increase in achievement by black students, but, instead, resulted largely from a decrease in achievement levels by both black and white students.”
Continue reading Academic gap shrinks; both levels drop
Some 70 parents were in attendance at Monday evening’s PTSO meeting to hear about West High School’s plans for 10th grade English. This was the largest turnout for a PTSO meeting in recent history. Approximately one-third of those there were parents of elementary and middle school students who will be attending West at some point in the future.
The consensus from parents was that they want more discussion of these planned changes, and given the school’s timeline for formalizing next year’s course offerings, these meeetings have to happen soon.
Parents heard from Principal Ed Holmes, English department chair Keesia Hyzer, and from teacher Mark Nepper. What follows is a brief summary of the presentation.
Continue reading Report from West High PTSO Meeting
From Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association council:
Long time Madison Board of Education member Carol Carstensen has agreed to be at our neighborhood association meeting next Thursday November 10 – 7:15 PM – at the Atwood Community Center – to talk about the future of east side schools, particularly Lowell and Lapham-Marquette elementary schools.
A school board task force is looking into underenrollment at some east side elementary schools – crowding at others – and what to do about it. Adjusting school attendance area boundary lines and / or closing schools are some of the options on the table. Emerson, Lapham and Lowell elementary schools — all under capacity — are said to be at risk if closings are considered.
In January the east side task force will recommend up to 3 options to the school board’s Long-Range Planning Committee.
A series of institutional failures – by court employees, police officers and school officials – led to a Madison student being shot with a Taser stun gun in a school parking lot early this year, according to an independent investigator whose report the school district has tried to keep secret.
No one comes off unscathed in the report, issued last month by attorney Eileen Brownlee, whom the district hired to investigate the incident.
Some background: On Jan. 21, Madison Police Officer Tim Harder shot Dalarence Goodwin, a 14-year-old freshman, in the back with a Taser in the parking lot of Memorial High School. Goodwin had broken free from Harder’s grip while Harder was attempting to handcuff him after arresting him inside the school. The arrest itself was based on a warrant apparently issued in error by a juvenile court.
Brownlee’s eight-page report concludes in no uncertain terms that in the hours before and after the shooting, Harder and school officials violated district procedures.
“It is clear,” Brownlee notes after recounting various versions of the events, “that the policy was violated.”
Brownlee’s Report on the Taser incident [PDF]. Ed Blume’s notes.
Tonight the Board of Education will vote on approving the purchase of land in the proposed plat of Linden Park located along Redan Road on the west side of Madison. The Board will vote on approving the purchase of 8.234 acres for the price of $535,258.83. One provision of the agreement requires the District to offer to sell the property back to the developer at the District’s original purchase price plus the cost of improvements plus 5% interest compounded daily, if the District determines not to build a school on the site and instead to sell the property.
The Offer to Purchase this property was signed by the developer on September 23, 2005, and was signed by Roger Price for the School District on September 26, 2005. The Offer is contingent upon Board approval.
Despite the fact that negotiations over this contract were completed at the end of September, this signed contract was not available for public review until last Friday, November 4, 2005. In fact, the signed contract was deliberately kept from public review before then. A Board meeting to discuss the signed contract was held in closed session on October 10, 2005 (Ruth Robarts and I voted against going into closed session on this matter), and an open records request by Jim Zellmer for a copy of the signed document was denied.
Continue reading Public Information and Tonight’s Land Purchase Vote
In our unrelently effort to unravel the mysteries of the MMSD budget, our loyal fans may remember the Case of the Disappearing Library Aids – Budget Mystery #2.
It all began with an innocuous inquiry from a schoolmarm and inquisitive assistant who claimed that their library did not receive library aids for the last school year.
After more than a month of pointed proding, Assistant Superintendent Roger Price responded with a most mystifying missive which includes the alarming admission that the MMSD did not expend $293,055 in library aids received from the DPI last year!
Continue reading $293,000 Unspent in Library Aids; Mystery #2 Deepens
This is a problem. Serious education reform demands strong, competent leadership for two reasons. First, kids don’t have lobbyists to look after their interests. The inertia and resistance to change manifested by the education system and its myriad adult interest groups are so powerful that, absent first-rate leadership, one must expect nothing much to change. This is particularly dangerous for a state with weak job growth, anemic economic growth, and signs of a brain drain.
Second, while Ohioans substantially agree about many of the problems facing public education and the reforms needed to address those problems, they are split down the middle on others. Effective leadership is mandatory, else nothing will change.
This would be okay if nothing needed to change, but Ohioans surely don’t think so—and plenty of objective evidence says they are correct. Only a third of survey respondents—and fewer than one in five African Americans—believe their local public schools are “doing pretty well and need little change.” Virtually all others want “major change” or “a whole new system.” This is no surprise in a state where close to half of respondents also see the economy as a serious issue. Ohioans know that education and economic opportunity are connected, and they’re worried about both
But there’s good news in the survey, too. On many important education issues and reform ideas, Ohioans manifest broad agreement as to what’s wrong, what’s important, and what ought to happen.
Here are five key education topics where we see something akin to consensus:
- Money alone won’t accomplish much. Respondents believe it would “get lost along the way” to classroom improvement (69 percent).
- Stop social promotion and automatic graduation. Teachers should pass kids to the next grade “only if they learn what they are supposed to know” (87 percent) and high school students should pass tests “in each of the major subjects before they can graduate” (83 percent).
- Free-up the front-line educators. Local schools ought to have considerably greater freedom and control over curriculum, budgets, and, especially, firing “teachers that aren’t performing” (89 percent).
- Reward good teachers. Good teachers should be rewarded with higher pay (84 percent) and paid more if they “work in tough neighborhoods with hard-to-reach students” (77 percent).
- Enforce discipline. Schools should enforce strict discipline with regard to student behavior, dress, and speech (91 percent).
Joanne’s site has links to Ohio’s NAEP numbers.
In surfing through the information posted for the task forces, I have two questions about some of it.
First, I don’t know why the MMSD staff presented the chart on Transportation_Students_Special Ed_ELL. However, the district does more busing and cabbing than just special ed and ELL students. Most children, I believe, in early childhood programs get bused or cabbed, but they may be included in the special ed students. In addition, children in TEP (Temporary Education Program) for homeless kids get bussed or cabbed (sometimes from Verona, Middleton, and Sun Prairie). If the chart were to include all kids who are bussed, the TEP kids definitely need to be added.
Continue reading Questions about task force data
“In the 80s, we had African-American gangs really hit the scene here in Madison,” said Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. “But what we’re looking at today is that we have more young ladies involved in gangs, we have Asian gangs, and a real increase in Latino gangs.”
Dane County Executive Assistant Ken Haynes said gang members are coming from diverse backgrounds, not just low-income neighborhoods.
“Problems … challenges don’t stop at geographic boundaries,” Haynes said.
Community leaders said that to reduce gang activity, everyone needs to work together.
“Our strategies need to be connected to all the strategies with other service providers, strategies in the schools and the strategies with parents,” Wray said
Video clips and archives from the recent Gangs and School Violence Forum.
The MMSD Web site lists eight options for further review by the task force. Rather than try to list them here, you can link to the meeting minutes with the options.
The minutes from the West/Memorial task force include the following:
Seven Task Force members indicated that they had ideas for options to begin the discussion. Jane noted that we would have members bring up their ideas and then determine how to proceed in refining the ideas. She also noted that District staff would analyze the options further before the next meeting of the Task Force.
Local media posted a number of K-12 articles this morning:
The Tucson Unified School District’s Opening Minds through the Arts , also known as OMA, was recently awarded a federal grant totaling over one million dollars to continue research on its music and art model and how it positively effects student achievement.
Independent research has shown that OMA participant’s especially English language learners and students from disadvantaged communities, have significantly improved their standardized test scores in reading, language, and math. Furthermore, research indicates that students at OMA schools demonstrate fewer behavioral problems, improve their classroom focus, and show greater respect for themselves and fellow students and teachers.
Now in its fifth year at TUSD, OMA integrates the fine arts into traditional and arts curriculum for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. The OMA model is based on extensive research on the neurological development of children. Using opera, dance, costume design and music, students learn new ways to view and understand complex math and language problems. In Grade 3 students learn to play the recorder. In Grade 4 all students learn to play a stringed instrument and in Grade 5 all students learn to play an instrument in a band or orchestra.
OMA was one of 23 programs selected nationally to receive the U.S. Department of Education grant. Titled Professional Development for Arts Educators, the grant will provide the district with $1,001,700 over the next three years for additional research on past student achievement results and specific OMA components that help increase student success.
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when minds are open to changes and a focus on what contributes positively to student achievement and what improves learning and closing the achievement gap. Federal funding for approaches similar to OMA have been available for several years. But, the first step is support for what supports children’s learning and achievement and a willingness to work together under current constraints on new ideas. This past summer the director of OMA conducted workshops throughout the US, one in Minneapolis. Perhaps School Board will put together a working group to get started on something similar for our children.
There is a techie adage that goes like this: In China or Japan the nail that stands up gets hammered, while in Silicon Valley the nail that stands up drives a Ferrari and has stock options. Underlying that adage is a certain American confidence that whatever we lack in preparing our kids with strong fundamentals in math and science, we make up for by encouraging our best students to be independent, creative thinkers.
Continue reading From Gunpowder to the Next Big Bang by Thomas L. Friedman
On October 31, the Human Resources Committee of the Madison Board of Education reviewed a memo from Juan Jose Lopez, the chair of the committee. According to the memo, the Board developed goals for the 2005-06 evaluation of the superintendent during its recent closed sessions to evaluate his performance between 2002 and now.
If so, I believe that the Board violated the requirements of the Wisconsin Open Meetings law in those sessions. The Open Meetings law permits the Board to meet in closed sessions to consider “performance evaluation data”. That is, the Board may discuss how the superintendent’s performance measures up under the performance standards. The law does not permit the Board to develop the standards for future evaluations behind closed doors. That’s why the October 10 meeting was scheduled as an open meeting. The Board must hold its discussion of future standards for this evaluation in public.
The memo also refers to a still secret document, “the Superintendent’s evaluation”, and recommends that the next evaluation of Superintendent Art Rainwater focus on four categories. Did the Board evaluate the superintendent in just four categories? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed. Were there other ideas about where improvement is needed? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed. Is this memo an accurate summary of Board discussions? We can’t say, because the sessions were closed.
The next step is another Human Resource Committee meeting. Board members are encouraged to submit recommendations for the next evaluation before this meeting.
The memo follows:
Continue reading Board of Education’s 2005-06 evaluation of superintendent: next steps
I’ve attended many of the School Board meetings where equity issues came up. I listened to parents and representatives from the Northside Coalition talk about their concerns about equity issues over the past several years, including concerns about the application of the equity formula over the past several years frustrated, in part, that the School Board was not implementing and overseeing the established, Board approved equity policy.
My daughter does not attend any of the schools represented by these parents, but my husband has taught in some of these schools, so I’m familiar with some but certainly not all of issues, and I’ve worked as a PTO Board member in support of many similar issues. I wholeheartedly support parent and community members’ concerns, and I wholeheartedly believe we need to take steps to do the right thing for all our students, especially helping those who are in the greatest need of support to be successful learners.
I wasn’t at Monday night’s meeting, but I’ve heard Lawrie Kobza testify and speak on the need for the School Board to take steps to insure that the Equity Policy is implemented and to monitor the implementation of that policy as required. I agree with her recommendation that a first step for the Task Force would be to examine the existing equity policy, even though I believe this motion was defeated. I hope the Equity Task Force, when formed, will go ahead and begin their work by looking at the existing policy and keep the big picture in mind.
Continue reading Equity and School Board – Hard Work Needed by School Board AND Equity Task Force
Below is the list of questions about 10th grade English that were sent to West Principal Ed Holmes, West English Chair Keesia Hyzer, and Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash (who will be attending the meeting). We explained — again — that our goals in sending them questions before the meeting are to give them time to prepare answers, minimize “surprises” at the meeting, and insure that all of our questions are answered. They are aware that we are posting the questions to this list serve and that many parents in attendance next Monday night will know that these questions have been asked of them. We have asked Mr. Holmes to consider publishing our questions and the school’s answers to them in the next issue of the Regent Reporter (much as Mr. Rathert did with my questions about the SLC initiative a year-and-a-half ago), in order that parents who are not able to attend the meeting next week can nevertheless be fully informed. We also included a few questions about the research on ability grouping and the SLC initiative, more generally, but made it clear that we did not necessarily expect them to be addressed next week.
We hope to see a lot of you at the meeting (7:00 p.m. in the West LMC). Feel free to bring along any additional questions you feel we have overlooked.
Continue reading Questions About West’s Proposed One 10th Grade English Class
The district’s equity policy was originally adopted in 1994. Shortly after, the East Area Success Team came to the Board with a proposal that we adopt a more equitable approach to distributing resources. This became the Equity Resource Allocation formula; it was used, and is still used, to distribute additional resources (supplemental) to the neediest schools at the elementary level. The Board allocated a number of the supplemental positions to support SAGE programming at 16 schools in 2000-01. Since most schools used the supplemental resources to decrease class size this appeared to be a reasonable way to reduce class sizes and gain a bit more in state funding.
Last spring the Northside PTO Coalition, which has been very concerned about the equity policy, put this question before the school board: “If further cuts are required, will you commit to working with the community to try to protect smaller class sizes at the neediest schools, even if that means raising class sizes at schools with lower poverty levels?”
The Board discussion reported in the Capital Times earlier this week was about the questions and issues such an approach raises. My questions are:
How much do we take away from some schools and some programs to maintain resources at other schools?
- Just to clarify, the first step the Task Force on Equity is directed to take is to review the district’s current policy and the equity resource allocation formula.
- Is the income of students to be the overriding criteria in funding discussions?
- Do we end SAGE at those schools with poverty levels significantly below the district average (say less than 30%)?
- Do we take away the .5 supplemental allocated to schools with lower poverty rates?
- How do we handle programs that serve a lower percentage of low-income students?
- Do we eliminate advanced courses at the high school or foreign language at the middle school in order to give additional resources to the secondary schools with the highest proportion of low-income students?
I do not have a ready answer to these questions – but they are ones that the Equity Task Force will discuss in considering their recommendations to the Board. The Equity Task Force was specifically requested by a number of parents and the Northside PTO Coalition.
New Fall 2005 study from the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty:
“Inequality in children’s school readiness and public funding” was authored by a team that includes local assistant professor of social work Katherine Magnuson. It asks:
There are still many questions about children’s preschool experiences and the rise in public preschool funding. Has the substantial expansion of public funding made inroads into the disparities in preschool enrollment? How good are the various types of programs—are some forms of preschool higher in quality than others? How effective are they in remedying disadvantage—do poor children who attend preschool programs really enter school better prepared to learn? Do any advantages of preschool expe-rience fade over time?
The full document is available online in PDF format at:
From Jason Shepard’s column Talking Out of School in Isthmus, Madison’s only media outlet to give the public in-depth coverage of the MMSD:
A series of institutional failures — by court employees, police officers, and school officials — led to a Madison student being shot with a Taser stun gun in a school parking lot early this year, according to an independent investigator whose report the school district has tried to keep secret. . . .
[The report] is a remarkable indictment of the ways in which police and school officials handled the Taser incident. But perhaps the case’s most distrubing aspect concerns what appear to be ongoing efforts to cover up what transpired.
Continue reading The shocking truth
On Monday, October 31st, the Madison School Board voted to establish an equity policy task force even though a board equity policy exists – http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/policies/9001.htm. The existing equity policy goals are twofold: (1) that all students will be provided an equitable educational opportunity in a diverse setting and (2) that all students will achieve in accordance with the 100% success objectives. MMSD School Board members are not taking the necessary steps to ensure that the existing School Board Equity Policy is being implemented as stated in the policy requirements. Why not? It seems to be easier for the Board majority to punt to another new task force and confuse the situation, further delaying action.
There are serious flaws and confusion in the ‘reasoning’ and applications of the ‘equity policy’ by the majority of the Board: equity and equal are NOT the same; nor do the equity policy and the equity formula mean, nor do the same things. The Board majority and the Administration conveniently hide behind the confusion and lack of accountability they create to ‘assure’ everyone they are doing everything they can given financial constraints that prevent them from doing more. The lack of prior board oversight, work and actions simply do not support the board majority’s statements on Monday night.
For example, as Chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee last year, Board member Juan Jose Lopez had both the power and the authority to set the agenda for his committee. Did his committee make closing the achievement gap a priority? No. Did his committee examine curriculum, identify where resources are being allocated and what support resources are needed, review test results, budgets and make recommendations for changes to improve the achievement gap? No. I attended all the Performance and Achievement Committee meetings. What was done? District administrators made “seminar type” information presentations on various subjects and curricula, but no data on MMSD’s students were presented.
Continue reading MMSD Equity Policy Exists – Board Not Overseeing Policy
in many parts of the country 40 to 50 percent of education funding never makes it to the classroom. A new report by Reason and Deloitte finds that saving just a quarter of the tax dollars spent by school districts on non-instructional operations could save $9 billion. To put this number in perspective, it is equivalent to 900 new schools or more than 150,000 additional teachers. “School funding and per pupil spending are always hot-button issues,” said Lisa Snell, co-author of the report. “Sharing services gives schools and districts a great opportunity to send a lot more money straight to classrooms, where it belongs. With much of the education world facing tough budget decisions, sharing services is a dramatically under-used option that can yield significant results.”
Full Report [PDF] Obviously a good idea, however like many such initiatives (city / county consolidation is another example), execution is generally non-trivial. Reason has a number of education oriented publications posted here.