On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness: Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations (2004)
Curricula play a vital role in educational practice. They provide a crucial link between standards and accountability measures. They shape and are shaped by the professionals who teach with them. Typically, they also determine the content of the subjects being taught. Furthermore, because decisions about curricula are typically made at the local level in the United States, a wide variety of curricula are available for any given subject area.
Under the auspices of the National Research Council, this committee�s charge was to evaluate the quality of the evaluations of the 13 mathematics curriculum materials supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (an estimated $93 million) and 6 of the commercially generated mathematics curriculum materials (listing in Chapter 2).(more…)

Madison School Performance Series: Reading Instruction

The Madison School Performance Series of issue briefs will offer parents and others accessible information and analysis of critical school program and funding issues. The first paper on Reading Instruction is attached. In a question and answer format it discusses the failing Reading Recovery program and how the District�s commitment to the program is costing us more per student than other more effective programs. Upcoming papers will address issues such as fine arts, programs for talented and gifted students and administration funding.
View this 1 Page PDF File [72K PDF]

East hosts meeting to discuss principal selection

The head of the East parent network e-mailed the letter below to people who’d signed up to get news about East.
November 22, 2004
Dear East High School Parent, Family or Community Member,
You are invited to attend a special meeting to discuss the selection and hiring of the next principal of East High School. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 14 at 6:30 PM in the forum at East High School. Valencia Douglas, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education for the Madison Metropolitan School District will be facilitating the meeting.
This meeting is the first step in the formal process that will culminate with the hiring of the new principal. Your input is important. If you have any questions, please contact the main office at East School at 204-1600.
Sincerely yours,
Loren J. Rathert
Interim Principal

Madison Math Curriculum Discussion

Reminder: The Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee will meet monday night, 11.29 @ 7:00p.m. to discuss “Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction” Room 103 Doyle Administration building [Map].

John Muir Elementary School PTO Feedback

We’ve started to ask local PTO/A organizations for a list of their view of the Madison School District Priorities. Here’s two from John Muir Elementary:

  • Good morning PTO members. I am in touch with ______’s teacher about having a parents/teachers night where the a teacher or two would do a presentation on the new Math teaching theory, and how to inform parents so that we may be able to help their children at home. I hear from many parents who wish to receive this

  • as a teacher, and especially as a teacher of the Arts, I am particularly concerned about the cuts that have been made in our schools. The public doesn’t realize the impact, but it is keenly felt by all staff throughout the district and Wisconsin. There will be more cuts next year.
    I would encourage the PTO to invite school board members to attend a meeting, and to have them explain what has been cut or changed, and what is yet to come. Because we have a budget crisis in Wisconsin, we are losing staff, programs are being cut, teachers are being overloaded by more responsibilities. This is not going to end. We still have millions of dollars more to cut next year, and the next and the next.
    The point of the meeting, besides voicing concerns about these cuts, is to have the school board talk about what the public can and should do. I believe this should be our chief priority.

Send yours to zellmer at mailbag dot com.

Overture Center Soars while MMSD Fine Arts Curriculum Sinks

The following letter was submitted to the Madison papers today.
Dear Editor:
What joy I experience when I attend performances at the new Overture Center for the Performing Arts! I�ve been to a variety of free and paid performances, including the MSO and Kanopy Dance. Thank you Jerry Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland for your gift to the City of Madison, your vision for a vibrant arts community, and your support for the city�s economic and cultural future. Yet sadly, we are in danger of this joy not lasting into the future.
The problem is not Madison�s citizens. Their support for arts organizations is impressive. The Great Performance Fund is a major step in that direction, and the UW-Madison is undertaking a major renovation and investment in the arts as well. These foundations are critical to the support of a vibrant Madison future, but they are not sufficient.
What is missing? We are lacking a commitment to a strong Fine Arts foundation in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), which serves nearly 25,000 students.
continue reading entire letter.


Committee will meet on reading – December 13

Monday, December 13
5:00pm – Peformance & Achievement, Doyle Admin Building, Rm 103

Research-Base Underlying MMSD Classroom Reading Programs
Alternative Programs
Apparently this committee meeting comes as a response to the Isthmus article on the failures of Reading Recovery.

Life Way After Head Start – Innovative PreSchool Programs Have Decades Long Effects for Low Income and Minority Children

Madison’s preschool leaders are advocating for an innovative K-4 program that involves a public/private partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District, City of Madison and Madison preschools. There are proposed options that will build upon current preschool programs and entry into public school.
As the article below states, innovative pre-school programs can have decades long positive effects on children who participate in them as they grow into adults.
David L. Kirp, writing in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (November 21, 2004:
“The power of education to level the playing field has long
been an American article of faith. Education is the
”balance wheel of the social machinery,” argued Horace
Mann, the first great advocate of public schooling. ”It
prevents being poor.” But that belief has been undermined
by research findings — seized on ever since by skeptics —
that federal programs like Head Start, designed to benefit
poor children, actually have little long-term impact.
Now evidence from an experiment that has lasted nearly four
decades may revive Horace Mann’s faith. ”Lifetime Effects:
The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40,” was
released earlier this week. It shows that an innovative
early education program can make a marked difference in the
lives of poor minority youngsters — not just while they
are in school but for decades afterward. ”
The complete article follows:


Celebrating Mediocrity?

John Tierney writes:

At one level, the debate is over current controversies in public education: Many parents believe that their children, mostly in elite schools, are being pushed too hard in a hypercompetitive atmosphere. But other parents are complaining about a decline in programs for gifted children, leaving students to languish in “untracked” and unstimulating classrooms. Some critics of education believe that boys especially are languishing in schools that emphasize cooperation instead of competition. No Child Left Behind, indeed.
But the basic issue is the same one raised four decades ago by Kurt Vonnegut in “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story set in the America of 2081, about a 14-year-old genius and star athlete. To keep others from feeling inferior, the Handicapper General weighs him down with 300-pound weights and makes him wear earphones that blast noise, so he cannot take “unfair advantage” of his brain.
That’s hardly the America of 2004, but today’s children do grow up with soccer leagues and spelling bees where everyone gets a prize. On some playgrounds dodge ball is deemed too traumatic to the dodging-impaired. Some parents consider musical chairs dangerously exclusionary.

Fascinating look at the tyranny of low expectations….

Closing a School?

Lee Sensenbrenner writes:

Board President Bill Keys said any talk of closing a school is “very preliminary” and rests on enrollment forecasts for 2010.
He said, though, that it was important for people to know that a school closure is among the options the district is putting forward.
“It might be necessary,” he said, “but it’s not something that’s desirable.”

Closing a Madison school is possible

“Madison School District parents could face a difficult community discussion next spring over whether to close one of the district’s 30 elementary schools.
Superintendent Art Rainwater said Thursday that all options, including closing a school, must be considered to deal with an expected shift in student population from the city’s East and North sides to the South and West sides.”
Story continues at the State Journal.

Students Test an Electronic Eye

Steve Rosenblum forwarded this article and asks “Are we training our children to accept this level of monitoring….?” A few schools have begun monitoring students’ arrivals and departures using technology similar to that used to track livestock. – Matt Richtel

Board will discuss math curriculum

This announcement was posted on the MMSD Web site:
Monday November 29th, 2004
7:00pm – Performance & Achievement, Doyle Admin Building, Rm 103
* Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction
If you have questions or concerns about the math curriculum, I’d guess that you might want to attend this meeting.

Carstensen & Clingan to run again

An article in the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday, November 16, reports that Carol Carstensen and Bill Clingan will run for re-election to the school board.
A lively debate during school board elections will help shape better policies and improve programs for Madison�s children. A lively debate, of course, requires a candidate to challenge the incumbents.
You can be a candidate!
You can begin circulating nomination papers on Sunday, December 1, barely three weeks from now! You need only 100 signatures by January 7, 2005, to get your name on the ballot! You can get full details at the Web pages of the city clerk.
You won�t be alone. A strong network of experienced activists from all across the city will help with research, organizing, fundraising, and all the other necessities of running a campaign.
As a candidate, you would run city-wide for a one of two numbered seats currently held by Bill Clingan (Seat 6) and Carol Carstensen (Seat 7).
If you�d like to know more about how to run, you can find the details on the Web site of the city clerk. Or, feel free to contact Jim Zellmer, webmaster of www.schoolinfosystem.org, (608)271-9622, zellmer@mac.com; Don Severson, Active Citizens for Education, (608)238-8300, donleader@aol.com; Ed Blume, (608)225-6591, edblume@mailbag.com.

DVD’s Replacing Live Spanish Teacher?

Jamall Abdul-Alim on the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District‘s attempt to use DVD’s for first through third graders.

“Buenos dias,” says Senor Morris, the instructor featured in the DVD set “Elementary Spanish” – a program the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District is using for the first time this year to teach Spanish to first- through third-graders.
In Spanish, the phrase means “good morning.”
But the days of Spanish instruction for students at Indian Hill may not be as good as they once were, educators say.
Last year, a teacher stood in the place now occupied by the TV set and DVD player. Budget cuts brought on by declining enrollment led district officials to say adios to Spanish teacher Mara Malloy – called Senora Malloy by her students.
She has been replaced by the DVD Spanish instruction package produced by Northern Arizona University.
The district saved thousands of dollars in Malloy’s part-time teacher salary and benefits. The DVD package cost $3,000.
But educators and students say there is a deeper cost associated with the switch from live teacher to technology that transcends dollars. They lament the lack of interaction between student and teacher, and worry that will lead to less academic success.

What do we want from our elected officials?

Reading Jason Shephard’s excellent “Robarts Gets The Treatment” made me think about what we should expect from our elected officials.
Here are my initial thoughts:

  • Act Professionally
    Debate is essential to our form of government. Our elected leaders should engage in and value substantive debate. Nothing engages the public more than this type of dialogue.
  • Use Data to Make Decisions
    There’s a reason that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), and LAB (Legislative Audit Bureau) exist
  • Communicate: Tell the Whole Story
    Use the internet to converse with constituents.
  • Ask Tough Questions

Ruth Robarts and Kathleen Falk seem to be two local elected officials who are willing to challenge the status quo. Shephard is correct when he refers to Robarts as “Public Ally Number 1”
I consider Russ Feingold to be nearly a perfect politician. He’s idealist, yet has classic political abilities. He’s also very smart. Idealist in terms of compaign finance and local communications, political in terms of timely, political votes (NRA and Tax Giveaway) and smart (debates: where he shows that he knows the game very well). To his credit, he’s always willing to chat and ask questions. I’m interested in hearing your views. Click comments and write.

A Mother’s View on MMSD Expansion’s of Safe Haven

On October 8, 2004, Isthmus newspaper ran a story about how the Madison Schools replaced two not-for-profit after school day care programs with its own “Safe Haven” programs run by the Madison School-Community Recreation department.
Jane Sekulski, a mother whose child was in a displaced program, provides her responses to the article. This letter is a longer version of a letter published in Isthmus on November 11.


Tough Love: A DC Mother’s Commitment to Education comes at a steep price

Susan Levine:

She sees the school for the first time on her daughter’s last day, and on a late June afternoon, with a crowd around, Sheila Hutton does not see much. The halls are locked and the classrooms disassembled. The teachers are indistinguishable from the parents, all in familiar conversation with neighbors and friends. Hutton, the stranger from Washington, takes in what she can as she finds a seat in the gymnasium. Purple banners herald the athletic championships the high school has won. Shimmery silver balloons bob on their tethers. The place already is packed.
In this faraway dot on a New Hampshire map — a rural curve in the road, nearly to Canada — her daughter is graduating. Hutton scans the program listing the 37 members of the Groveton High Class of ’04. About halfway down the names, after Holmes, before Karl: Michelle Teresa Hutton, a girl with bubbly charm and a Pepsodent smile.

Via Joanne Jacobs Maria Glod’s High Achiever’s Leaving Schools Behind is also well worth reading.

Run for school board

A lively debate during school board elections will help shape better policies and improve programs for Madison�s children. A lively debate, of course, requires more than one candidate in a race. You can be one of those candidates!
You can begin circulating nomination papers on Sunday, December 1, barely three weeks from now! You need only 100 signatures by 5:00 p.m. on January 4, 2005, to get your name on the ballot! You can get full details at the Web pages of the city clerk.

You won�t be alone.
A strong network of experienced activists from all across the city will help with research, organizing, fundraising, and all the other necessities of running a campaign.
As a candidate, you would run city-wide for a one of two numbered seats currently held by Bill Clingan (Seat 6) and Carol Carstensen (Seat 7).
If you�d like to know more about how to run, you can find the details on the Web site of the city clerk. Or, feel free to contact Jim Zellmer, webmaster of www.schoolinfosystem.org, (608)271-9622, zellmer@mac.com; Don Severson, Active Citizens for Education, (608)238-8300, donleader@aol.com; Ed Blume, (608)225-6591, edblume@mailbag.com.

Noted Researcher to Talk on “Best Practices in Gifted and Talented Education”

Community members are invited to join the Madison TAG Parents Group to hear Pam Clinkenbeard, Ph.D. talk on the topic of “Best Practices in Gifted and Talented Education” this Thursday, November 11, 2004 at 7:00 p.m. in Room 209 of the Doyle Administration Building.
Dr. Clinkendbeard is Professor of Educational Foundations at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She teaches courses in educational psychology, student motivation, child and adolescent development, and testing and measurement. She is a past president of the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted and is currently on its board. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) from 1990-1996, and also served as Recording Secretary. She is also on the advisory boards of the Midwest Talent Search (MTS) and the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY). Pam received her doctorate in educational psychology and gifted education from Purdue University, studying with John Feldhusen. She then ran educational programs for the Duke University Talent Search, followed by several years teaching at the University of Georgia and coordinating the graduate program in gifted education. She was on the faculty of Yale University and the National Research Center for the Gifted and Talented, and worked with Robert J. Sternberg conducting research on his triarchic theory of intelligence and on motivation and gifted students. She has written several book chapters and has published articles in Gifted Child Quarterly, Journal for Education of the Gifted, and Roeper Review. She received the NAGC Early Researcher award, and is working on a project investigating the motivational patterns of gifted students. Pam grew up in Indiana, where her parents were teachers, and she graduated from DePauw University. She currently lives in Madison, and we are delighted that she is willing to share her expertise with us.

Norm and Dolores Mishelow Presentation on Milwaukee’s Successful Reading Program

Norm and Dolores Mishelow gave an informative presentation Sunday on their successful Milwaukee Barton School and 27th Street school reading programs. Background
3.7MB MP3 – ideal for your MP3 Player/iPod | Quicktime Video
Transcripts to Follow. DVD copy is also available – email me if you’d like one: zellmer at mailbag dot com
In a related matter, Madison School Board Member Carol Carstensen writes in the Wisconsin State Journal in support of the District’s recent rejection of $2m in Federal Reading First money (click below).


Reading program not worth cost; Rainwater pledges that it will continue

This week’s Isthmus includes a damning internal assessment of Reading Recovery, “a remedial first-grade reading program considered a cornerstone of Madison’s school iteracy efforts.”
“The district would be ‘well-served to investigate other methods’ to reach struggling reaaders, says the report.”
One of those other methods will be presented Sunday, at 1:00 p.m., at the Madison Community Center.
You can link to the Isthmus article.
The notice of Sunday’s meeting follows.

Could Madison Use Milwaukee�s Successful Reading Programs?

Norm and Dolores Mishelow
1:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 7
Madison Senior Center
330 W. Mifflin
Principal Norm Mishelow will discuss how academic achievement excels at Barton, because the school teaches reading using Direct Instruction (DI), a program that provides a detailed script for teacher-student interaction. The program focuses on small group learning and emphasizes phonics. The school also uses a math curriculum that focuses generally on building basic arithmetic skills.
Norm�s wife Dolores is a former principal of 27th Street School which was a failing school before she took over. She started DI, and their test scores soared. She used to believe in all the whole language and warm fuzzy teaching until, of course, she saw the light with DI. Norm was not using DI until Dolores nudged him to try it (after she retired) and his scores, though decent without DI, hit the stratosphere once DI got humming.
The same curriculum in MMSD elementary schools could help close the achievement gap, cut instructional costs, reduce special ed referrals, and raise achievement overall.
You can read more by connecting to Barton School.
Sponsored by www.schoolinfosystems.org and Active Citizens for Education (ACE).

A call for greater attention to the needs of gifted middle school students

Two of the nation’s leading education groups are calling for schools, teachers, and parents to assure that all middle school youngsters are in classrooms where “both equity and excellence are persistent goals for each learner.” National Middle School Association (NMSA) and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) have issued a joint position statement and call for action to meet the needs of high-ability and high-potential learners between 10 and 15 years of age.
The statement, entitled “Meeting the Needs of High-Ability and High-Potential Learners in the Middle Grades,” is being sent to education and government leaders throughout the United States. “Our challenge is to assure that every learner has access to the highest possible quality education and the opportunities to maximize his or her learning potential,” said Carol Tomlinson, past president, NAGC. “Today’s middle level schools must provide strong academic programs for all young adolescents, including advanced learners,” said Sue Swaim, executive director, NMSA. “Yet, these opportunities must be presented in a developmentally responsive manner for students whose development differs at a given time.”
NMSA and NACG are urging schools to implement appropriate identification, assessment, and curriculum and instruction programs for students with advanced abilities and/or advanced potential. Additionally, schools should build partnerships with all adults key to these students’ development, and focus on the affective development of these youngsters. Finally, the position statement calls for increased pre-service and in-service staff development for middle level teachers dealing with gifted students. The position statement includes a “call to action” to ensure equity and excellence for all learners, including those of advanced performance or potential. It suggests specific steps for district and school leaders; teachers, gifted education specialists, and support personnel; and parents to take.
The position statement can be downloaded at