Commercialism & High School Sports

Robert Andrew Powell takes a rather amazing look at the EA Sports Elite 11, a “camp” for the top 12 (following the Big Ten’s math example, there are 12 high school quarterbacks in this California camp):

Cody Hawkins arrived from Boise, Idaho, wearing Converse sneakers and a rainbow-colored polo shirt he bought for $3 at Goodwill. As soon as he set foot on campus here Monday, Hawkins, along with 11 other top high school quarterbacks, was handed new gear. In an oversized black Nike duffel bag, he found pairs of Nike Shox running shoes and cleats, and a Nike football, the only brand he would be allowed to use for the next four days.
Nike is an official sponsor of the EA Sports Elite 11, which its organizers call a “campetition” for quarterbacks. Orange-flavored Cytomax is the camp’s official sports drink. Muscle Milk Carb Conscious Lean Muscle Formula is the official protein drink, available in vanilla creme, chocolate creme and banana creme flavors. For dinner, campers ate barbecued ribs, chicken breasts and dollops of garlic mashed potatoes provided by Outback Steakhouse, a camp sponsor.

$25 Per Quarter For Perfect Attendance

Sara Miller:

Under a new plan, a student who misses not a single day per quarter will receive $25 in an account – redeemable upon graduation. In doing so, the school joins a number of districts throughout the country turning to incentives to boost test scores, GPAs, and student turnout.

Via Joanne Jacobs.

Milwaukee: Middle Schoolers Perform Better in a K-8 Setting

Sarah Carr:

Suspensions are down. Test scores and attendance are up. And many people are happier.
So concludes a first-of-its-kind report in Milwaukee on how sixth- through eighth graders are faring in the school district’s rapidly growing number of kindergarten through eighth-grade (or K-8) schools.
In a relatively short period of time, K-8s have expanded to dominate the school landscape in Milwaukee and other cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Philadelphia, so the report will be heavily scrutinized here and elsewhere.
In 2000, there were only about 10 K-8 schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools district; this fall there will be 61 K-8 schools, including those that are transitioning to become K-8s. Meanwhile enrollment in traditional middle schools is expected to plummet by 16% in one year alone, from about 13,200 students last fall to about 11,050 this fall.

Simpson Street Free Press

On Thursday July 21st, I was asked to speak to a group of students at the Simpson Street Free Press regarding the recent budget cuts and threats to music and fine arts programming in the MMSD. I have to say that I really enjoy the opportunity to speak with students. I feel it is very important to listen to their issues as well as giving them the opportunity to hear an adult perspective.


Teacher Merit Pay

Joanne Jacobs has an interesting set of links and comments on teacher merit pay:

Teacher Quality Bulletin’s merit pay round-up includes a story on a privately funded plan at an elementary school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Each teacher got a bonus based on the percentage increase in her students’ test scores.

For each pupil who made up to a 4 percent gain on the May test when compared with the pre-test last August, the teacher was entitled to $100. For each pupil who made a gain of between 5 percent and 9 percent, the bonus was $200. If the pupil’s gain was between 10 percent and 14 percent, the bonus was $300 and if the gain exceeded 15 percent, the bonus was $400.

Bonuses ranged from $1,800 to $8,600, and cost $65,000. The entire cost was $145,000 including testing costs and bonuses — based on the overall 17 percent gain of students schoolwide — to 25 other employees, including math and literacy coaches, the media specialist and maintenance and cafeteria workers.

In Florida, some districts give merit pay to many teachers; others have plans that make it impossible to qualify. The union wants it that way.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association was bitterly opposed to performance pay and helped set the eligibility bar so high that union chief Jade Moore said it would “make it nearly impossible” for any teachers to earn them.

Hillsborough is more flexible and leaves much of the bonus-granting power in the hands of principals.

Meanwhile Florida is having trouble with teacher certification scams (pdf). One 24-year-old claimed to have earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate within three months.

State Debt Rises Along with School Funds

Karen Lincoln Michel:

Wisconsin schools got the budget increases they wanted, but the money comes at a cost of $195 million in debt interest over the next 20 years, according to figures by the governor’s budget office.
In the state budget signed Monday, Gov. Jim Doyle through his partial veto power transferred $159 million from the transportation budget to the general fund to help pay for the $861 million increase in K-12 funding.
To recapture some of the costs while maintaining all current road projects slated for the 2005-07 budget, Doyle created $213.1 million in bonding to fund the Marquette Interchange project in Milwaukee — resulting in $158 million in debt interest over the next 20 years. In addition, Doyle authorized $52 million in bonding for major road projects, resulting in $37 million in debt interest over the same period.

Teaching Children CyberSecurity and Ethics

Cyber Security Industry Alliance [PDF]:

Just as we teach our children “right from wrong” in the physical world, we must ensure that the same lessons are taught in the cyber world as well.

What is missing here is a focused and organized national effort to teach children cyber security, cyber ethics, and cyber safety with national security in mind. These elements of cyber awareness are vital because pervasive use of the Internet also poses risks that may harm the emotional and personal safety of children. The technology, unfortunately, enables devious and unethical behavior toward people, organizations or information technology underpinning critical infrastructure. The cyber education our children receive does not go far beyond how to turn on the computer and use a mouse. It is incomprehensible that we are not teaching cyber security, ethics, and safety at an early age. Poor awareness by children about cyber security may cause inadvertent damage to their own PC, other electronic devices or personal information, and could ultimately threaten the fabric of our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure.

State Budget Provides Over $26 Million to Dane County Districts

Governor Jim Doyle announced that the 2005-2007 State Budget he signed into law on Monday will prevent more than $26.5 million in funding cuts to Dane County schools that the Legislature’s budget proposed.
Following are the cuts that Governor Doyle restored, by district:
• BELLEVILLE $368,424
• CAMBRIDGE $397,800
• DEERFIELD $305,592
• DEFOREST $1,273,368
• MADISON METRO $10,171,440
• MARSHALL $488,376
• MCFARLAND $796,416
• MIDDLETON-CP $2,226,864
• MONONA GROVE $1,139,544
• MOUNT HOREB $841,704
• OREGON $1,408,416
• STOUGHTON $1,476,144
• SUN PRAIRIE $2,155,464
• VERONA AREA $1,815,192
• WAUNAKEE $1,228,080

UW Madison Math Tutors

I periodically here of requests for math tutors. The University of Wisconsin Math Department maintains a helpful list of tutors here.

Schools get $400M as gov signs budget
By David Callender
Capital Times, July 25, 2005
Gov. Jim Doyle was set to use his veto pen today to restore more than $400 million in new state funding for public schools that Republican lawmakers had cut from his proposed budget and to create a “responsible property tax freeze” for the next two years.
Under the Democratic governor’s plan, taxes for the owner of an average Wisconsin home valued at $150,000 would stay the same this year as last year, and would decline by $5 next year.
Doyle was scheduled to sign the new $53 billion state budget into law at a ceremony at the governor’s mansion this morning.
“The people of our state have asked us to do four things with this budget: cut spending, cut taxes, make education the priority and freeze property taxes. I’m pleased to say this budget does all four, and we kept the faith with Wisconsin families,” Doyle said in prepared remarks for the bill signing.


Governor Doyle’s Budget Message

Governor Doyle signed the State of Wisconsin’s next two year budget document today. He also posted an extensive pdf document that outlines the changes he made to the Legislature’s version, via his line-item veto power. Included in these changes:

Taken together, the budget I am signing today will increase state funding for schools and property tax relief by over $400 million compared with the Legislature’s budget. Schools will receive a modest 3 percent cost-of-living increase, just as they have received annually for many years under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. The additional funding I am providing through my vetoes will enable the state – rather than local taxpayers – to shoulder the burden of paying for the increased costs of education over the next two years so that property taxes can be frozen.

Follow the discussion via the Budget Blog Brief budget Message (pdf).

3.8MB Full veto message pdf

K-12 Schools & Technology

“The greatest asset of the American, so often ridiculed by Europeans, is his belief in progress,” Victor Vinde, in 1945
Mary Kay Battaglia recently wrote about the virtual non-existence of electronic communication with parents in the Madison School District. I agree with Mary Kay’s comments.
Having said that, I believe that any District technology investment should be made in the context of these three priorities:

  • Curriculum: we should strive to teach our children to be creators rather than consumers (writing and thinking rather than powerpoint).
  • High Expectations: Our children must have the skills (arts, languages, math, science, history) to compete in tomorrow’s world. Retiring Milwaukee High School Principal Will Jude refers to the Tyranny of Low Expectations:

    Graduation comes, “but it’s at the expense of content.” The student goes to college and finds other kids are way ahead. Jude’s response: “You were doing the A section of the book while they were doing the B and C sections. You covered a lot of material but it was very shallow. They covered a lot of material but it was in depth.” . Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron (1961) provides further useful reading.

  • Inquisitiveness: Our students interest in and ability to ask questions, in other words, their willingness to question things that they read, observe and hear (Jay Rosen shows how important this is to our democracy).

Today’s communication tools provide our students and community with an unprecedented ability to converse, debate and learn. Our K-12 students, like their parents and those who teach them should be comfortable conversing in written form, email, cellphones, voicemail, weblogs and html.

The Madison School District, as Troy Dasler pointed out, will soon start to implement a new internet based Student Information System.


Wisconsin K-12 State Budget Update

Governor Doyle continues to dribble out his line item state budget changes (a classic way to keep a politician’s name in the news each day). Details here on the “property tax freeze” which is not really a freeze. Rather Doyle’s line item vetoes cap the rate of increase in property taxes to 2% or the net change in new construction, whichever is greater (I’m not sure this is the best approach from a land use perspective):

Retiring Milwaukee Principal Pushes Parents and District to do Better

Alan Borsuk:

You can do a good paint job that makes a poorly performing car look good, but it’s still a poorly performing car. That’s true too often of MPS diplomas. For kids to get to graduation, they sometimes take courses that aren’t as demanding as what should be expected. Graduation comes, “but it’s at the expense of content.” The student goes to college and finds other kids are way ahead. Jude’s response: “You were doing the A section of the book while they were doing the B and C sections. You covered a lot of material but it was very shallow. They covered a lot of material but it was in depth.”

Jessica Doyle to Discuss Education Investments in State Budget with Kids

After Governor Doyle signs the $54 billion State Budget for the next two years, First Lady Jessica Doyle will talk with kids about the education investments Governor Doyle made at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25, 2005 at the Janesville Boys and Girls Club. Later in the day, at 3:00 p.m., the First Lady will visit the Merrill Community Center in Beloit and discuss the State Budget with kids there.
1:30 p.m. Janesville Boys and Girls Club, [map]
200 West Court Street, Janesville.
3:00 p.m. Merrill Community Center, [map]
1428 Wisconsin Avenue, Beloit.
Contact: Megan Perkins, Office of the First Lady, 608-266-7116

Milwaukee Public Schools Direct Instruction Study

Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Study shows that Direct Instruction is successful, particularly with hard to reach students. The study is on-line at
Education That Works in the Milwaukee Public Schools:
The Benefits from Phonics and Direct Instruction
by Sammis White, Ph.D.
A phonics-based teaching technique (Direct Instruction) is proving successful in some Milwaukee Public Schools. This study of 23,000 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in the Milwaukee Public Schools showed that “among low-income students tracked between third and fourth grades 2002-03 to 2003-04, those with five years of Direct Instruction (DI) increased their math scores by 6.6% whereas non-low-income students increased their scores by 4.7%. This difference is statistically significant and is evidence of substantial progress.”
Direct Instruction in the Milwaukee Public Schools is creating real progress for hard-to-reach students.
* Students exposed to DI were even lower income, on average, than other MPS low-income students, but those individuals with long-term exposure to DI (defined as five years) did better, on average, than all low-income MPS students.
* In schools with DI in every grade and continuous professional development for the staff, students did even better, on average. Among low-income students, with a mix of regular and special education, students scored six points higher in reading and 25 points higher in math versus other low-income students. These differences suggest that with full implementation of DI at more schools, MPS would produce even greater academic gains.
The conclusions are less obvious from this article, but it is worth reading:
How best to teach reading?
Study of MPS students provides no clear answer
Posted: July 21, 2005
A controversial reading program called Direct Instruction is helping some Milwaukee Public Schools students, particularly those on the short end of the achievement gaps that are such an urgent issue here, a study of test scores of thousands of MPS students concludes.
But the comparison of students who have been in schools using the highly scripted program with those who haven’t been taught by that method leaves room for argument that the increasingly popular approach is not having much impact, at least not the way it is being done in many schools.
For the entire article go to:

WPRI: Milwaukee Public Schools Find Success with Phonics-Based Teaching Technique

Sammis White, Ph.D (full report here: 250K PDF):

study of 23,000 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in the Milwaukee Public Schools showed that “among low-income students tracked between third and fourth grades 2002-03 to 2003-04, those with five years of Direct Instruction (DI) increased their math scores by 6.6% whereas non-low-income students increased their scores by 4.7%. This difference is statistically significant and is evidence of substantial progress.” These results are reported in Education That Works In The Milwaukee Public Schools: The Benefits from Phonics and Direct Instruction, by Sammis White, Ph.D. The report was released today by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

Now for the Good News

The Economist:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress as been periodically testing a representative sample of 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds since the early 1970s. This year’s report contained two striking results. The first is that America’s nine-year-olds posted their best scores in reading and maths since the tests were introduced (in 1971 in reading and 1973 in maths). The second is that the gap between white students and minorities is narrowing. The nine-year-olds who made the biggest gains of all were blacks, traditionally the most educationally deprived group in American society. …..
They need to have. The poor quality of America’s schools is arguably the biggest threat to America’s global competitiveness, a threat that will only grow as the best brains from India and China compete in an ever-wider array of jobs. And the growing gap between the educational performance of the rich and the poor, and between the majority and minorities, is arguably the biggest threat to America’s traditional conception of itself as a meritocracy. The test results are thus doubly good news. They suggest that America may be able to improve its traditionally dismal educational performance. And they suggest that sharpening up schools can especially help minority children.

Excessively abled

An interesting column in the London Guardian suggesting that a society should be judged not only on how it treats its least fortunate, but also its most talented.,3604,1532781,00.html


San Clemente School Boundary Changes & CA 209

Jonathan D. Glater:

“The use of race in California, whether or not it’s for segregation purposes or integration purposes, is illegal,” said Sharon Browne, a lawyer at the firm, the Pacific Legal Foundation. “Any type of discrimination is wrong, and the people of California, in adopting 209, said it was wrong.”
Last month the firm filed suit on behalf of Mr. Winsten and other parents, some of whose children would have to travel 13 miles to the high school they might be reassigned to. Lawyers for the foundation have asked a state court judge to bar the school district from implementing the new boundaries until the suit is resolved; the judge denied that request.
The suit against the Capistrano Unified School District is not the first instance in which the foundation has sought to use Proposition 209 to block a voluntary integration plan. It successfully attacked a race-conscious student transfer plan in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 2002. A suit in 2003 to halt a voluntary desegregation plan in Berkeley, however, did not succeed.

Madison School Board Workshop: Evaluate Business Services?

The Madison School Board had several interesting discussions Monday night. The first was a proposed 3rd party evaluation of the District’s Business Services Department. This discussion is somewhat in response to the complaint that, given budget choices, the Madison School District lays off teachers rather than accountants.

Watch This Discussion – Quicktime

MP3 Audio

The 50 minute video provides a very interesting look at the different perspectives that the Madison School Board Members have on evaluating district operations and general decision making. I thought Carol did a nice job making the discussion happen.

Carol Carstensen, Lawrie Kobza and Ruth Robarts provided written comments on the Business Services evaluation – click the link below (well worth reading).

I also understand that the Board will start looking at next year’s budget this fall, rather than waiting until the spring.


… Schools Can’t Do it Alone – East St. Louis

Claudio Sanchez, All Things Considered:

As Washington policymakers talk of leaving no child behind, the reality in places like East St. Louis, Ill., is that schools can’t do it alone. When the school day is over and during the long summer vacation, children in these communities face poverty, crime, broken families and despair.


Getting More Girls to Study Math

Dan Fost:

“There’s still a big disparity between the percentage of women in science, engineering and technology versus the percentage of men,” Milgram said. “I think there has been a tendency to define certain things as masculine and feminine. Science and technology are defined as masculine.”
Milgram will be joined on the panel by Ellen Spertus, a computer science professor at Mills College and part-time software engineer at Google; Margaret Torn, a geological scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab; Neveia Chappell, product marketing engineer for Agilent Technologies; and Violet Votin, a recent graduate of Stanford University in cell biology.

Energy Saving Daylight Savings Change?

Reader Erika Frederick emailed this article by John Fialka:

As a step to save energy, Congress appears poised to extend U.S. daylight-saving time for two months, starting it earlier, on the first Sunday in March, and ending it later, on the last Sunday of November.

The move was first approved in May as part of the energy bill by the House. The idea has now been agreed upon by House and Senate committee staffs, with the approval of both Republican chairmen and ranking Democrats. That means it is likely to be approved by the full House-Senate conference committee, which begins squaring the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill this week.

The change is not without controversy:

The Air Transport Association has asserted that its members, long-distance American airlines, could lose millions of dollars because of schedule disruptions that the proposal would cause by throwing U.S. arrivals at foreign airports out of synchronization with European schedules and Europe’s system of awarding “slots,” or landing rights at airports.

Some large church groups also oppose extending daylight-saving time into the early spring and late fall, because it would require children to wait for school buses in the dark. “Without the light of day, they are more susceptible to accidents with school buses, or other motorists, and the darkness also provides cover for individuals who prey on children,” said the Rev. William F. Davis, deputy secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a letter written to the House sponsors of the measure

The proposed change is part of the Energy Bill.

The Other 82%

From the FightingBob website comes this piece by a Milwaukee school teacher:
His thesis: “Education spending alone cannot eliminate the educational advantages that affluent children have over poor children, but that does not mean we should not try.”
I sympathize with him and admire his dedication, but wonder still if there are reliable data to tease out the connection between dollars and performance. One thing I noticed in his arguing that we get good value for our teacher salaries and other per pupil spending was a reliance on the high ACT performance in this state, a statistic often touted. But I’d like to see an honest accounting of who these high scoring students are who actually take the test, out of the general student population, as well as where they attend school and what the per pupil spending is there and what the demographics are. In other words, I think that the use of the ACT statistic is a bit misleading.
I am certainly not advocating throwing in the towel on kids who come to school less prepared than those more fortunate, but I also think it’s time for an honest discussion on just how much difference our public school system can make. In a world of infinite resources, we would spend unlimited funds to reach just a few, but that’s not our reality. I would hope very much that we could have this conversation without labeling or name-calling.


A New Deal for Schools

The Economist:

So the challenge is different. But the solution once again is to be found in the education system—particularly America’s rotten public schools. Republicans are, generally speaking, reluctant to spend more money—partly because they represent people in richer school districts and partly because so much cash has already been wasted (America spends much more than other countries). Meanwhile Democrats, enslaved to the teachers’ unions, are generally unwilling to countenance reforms such as school vouchers and testing; and they are also keener on affirmative action, the system of race-based preferences which makes universities less competitive and keeps the poison of race in a debate which is best focused on income.
This is depressing. But a political solution of sorts is going begging. Republicans should be willing to spend more cash on schools in poor areas (including on teachers’ salaries) in exchange for the Democrats accepting structural reform. The No Child Left Behind Act, which introduced some forms of testing and the daring possibility of shutting down some bad schools, was an important step forward. But more is needed. Otherwise two Americas really will start to jump out off the map.

Johnny Winston, Jr. Annual Streetball & Block Party

The Johnny Winston, Jr. 2005 Streetball and Block Party will be held on Saturday August 13th from 12 noon to 7:00 p.m. at Penn Park (South Madison – Corner of Fisher and Buick Street). Last year this event raised the funds necessary to keep the MMSD varsity reserve football and boys and girls basketball program operational.


Where Teachers Rule: Schools with no Principal

Sarah Carr:

That’s largely because Community High lacks a traditional hierarchy. The school is one of a rapidly growing number of so-called “teacher-led” schools that operate without administrators – including principals and assistant principals. The teachers make decisions about the curriculum, the budget and student discipline. They perform peer evaluations of each other. Often, they come to decisions through discussion and debate, taking a vote if a consensus is not reached. The buck stops with them, not in the principal’s office.
In Milwaukee, which is a national leader in the movement toward teacher-led schools, there will be at least 14 such programs next year, and that figure does not count private schools.

Can We Talk?

Can we Talk about communication?
My three busy kids participate in swimming, baseball, basketball, soccer, football, book clubs, math olympiad, etc….. you get the idea, my kids are healthy, busy kids. I see hundreds of families participating in these events, games, parties, and all of the commmunications relayed to every family right here in Madison is done on the computer, internet or better known as e-mail. If I did not have access to e-mail I would show up at incorrect times, fail to pay fees, miss important meetings, for all these activities my kids participate in and I volunteer to help. What does this have to do with MMSD education? Nothing, and I mean nothing at all because MMSD doesn’t communicate with me via computer. When I moved to Madison, the PR on the Web and lead me to believe this was the future, the end all, the best the US offered. I wish they spent more on PC’s than PR because the technology in our district is archaic.


Study Great Ideas, But Teach to the Test

Four letters to the editor in response to Michael Winerip’s recent article on teaching to the test:

Ms. Karnes learned all sorts of exercises to get children excited about writing, get them writing daily about what they care about and then show them how they can take one of those short, personal pieces and use it as the nucleus for a sophisticated, researched essay.
“We learned how to develop good writing from the inside, starting with calling the child’s voice out,” said Ms. Karnes, who got an A in the university course. “One of the major points was, good writing is good thinking. That’s why writing formulas don’t work. Formulas don’t let kids think; they kill a lot of creativity in writing.”
And so, when Ms. Karnes returns to Allendale High School to teach English this fall, she will use the new writing techniques she learned and abandon the standard five-paragraph essay formula. Right?
“Oh, no,” said Ms. Karnes. “There’s no time to do creative writing and develop authentic voice. That would take weeks and weeks. There are three essays on the state test and we start prepping right at the start of the year. We have to teach to the state test” (the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, known as MEAP).

Read the full article here. Read the letters to the editor by clicking on the link:


Public Hearing on Wisconsin Virtual Schools


After months of encouragement from the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families to engage in such a dialogue, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster has recently convened a group of expert advisors to examine virtual schools and online learning in the public PK-12 schools of Wisconsin. Their findings may include suggested changes in DPI practice, administrative rule, and Wisconsin States.
The Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families will testify before this committee.
Monday, July 18th
9:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Room G09 of the GEF2 Building
101 South Webster Street, [Map]
The Coalition consists of hundreds of parents, students, teachers and others concerned about the educational opportunities available to Wisconsin families. It was formed in the wake of legal threats to virtual education in Wisconsin. On January 7, 2004, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) filed a complaint in Ozaukee County Circuit Court against a virtual public school (the Wisconsin Virtual Academy), the Northern Ozaukee School District, and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in an effort to shut down the school. They argued that parental participation was too significant. DPI, although it originally had approved the charter school, took the union’s side in the dispute in December.
Public and the media are invited to attend.
For further information, contact:
George 414-763-3661

Board & Administration Don’t Respond to Request

I’ve twice sent the e-mail below, and I have received no acknowldegement or response.

From: Ed Blume
Cc: ; ;
Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:26 PM
Subject: Program spending
Can you please tell me the amount the MMSD budgeted and spent in the 2004-2005 fiscal year on the following programs:
Reading Recovery
Read 180
Direct Instruction
Educational Framework
Could you also give me the amount budgeted for each program in the 2005-2006 fiscal year?
Ed Blume

National High School Survey Results

The National Governor’s Association, as part of their “Redesiging American High School initiative” recently conducted a survey of over 10,000 American students, ages 16 to 18. Major findings include:

  • Less than 1 in 10 say high school has been “very hard.”
  • More than one-third say high school has been “easy.”
  • 32% “strongly agree” they would work harder if high school offered more demanding and interesting courses.
  • 71% think taking courses related to the kinds of jobs they want is the best way to make their senior year more meaningful. (they also mention taking courses that count as college credit)

The survey also collects information from those who dropped out or are considering dropping out of high school.

Survey Conclusions:

  • It is critical to communicate to students that they need to seek out and take rigorous courses to be prepared for the future
  • Educators and parents must do a better job of encouraging students to find meaning in senior
    year by emphasizing its importance to their futures.

  • The message “you too can benefit from a high school education,” if continually reinforced, can work because a majority of teens who dropped out
    or who plan to drop out want to finish high school.

Read the entire summary here (250K PDF)

Task Forces Need Community Expertise & Open Debate

I delivered the following statement to the MMSD Long Range Planning Committee on July 11:

Back on October 18, 2004, I spoke to the Long Range Planning Committee at a meeting at Leopold School. I suggested that “the Long Range Planning Committee take the time to think beyond an April referendum on a new school” at Leopold. I see the West side task force as just that, and I compliment the board for forming the group.
I also made the statement that “citizens of the broad Madison school community include people with a tremendous amount of expertise in education, management, finance, urban planning, real life, and more. You should use every possible opportunity to tap their knowledge.”
I’m here again tonight to restate my plea that the Long Range Planning Committee draw on the vast knowledge and experience of people in the community, because as I said in October, “I have this perhaps naive democratic belief that the more ideas you get the better the final outcome.”


Joe Gotjard, Toki’s New Middle School Principle

Cristina Daglas:

He was known as “Big Joe” when he transitioned from student to staff member in the Madison school district more than 10 years ago. But times have changed and titles altered, and “Big Joe” is now Principal Gothard.
For the first time in 13 years, Joe Gothard will not be coaching football this season, and he says he’s open to hobbies. However, the new top job at Toki Middle School and chasing after his three young children at home may just take up this 32-year-old’s “extra” time.
Just recently hired, Gothard is settling into his new office and working diligently to get accustomed to the environment before the year’s beginning rolls around. He’s hoping to make the transition as smooth as possible keeping consistency for the Toki community. But the scenery isn’t all too new for the Madison native, a true product of the district’s “grow your own” administrator initiative, which one board member campaigns for rather frequently.

UW’s Lawson Software Implementation Problems


The “Lawson Project” aim to replace old mainframe technology with new comprehensive payroll software.
A News 3 investigation finds after years of work, and tens of millions of dollars, system officials still can’t say when it will be powered up or how much it will cost.
“We have spent more money at this point than the people who initially envisioned the project thought we would have spent five years out, and we’re not as far along as they thought we would be,” said Don Mash, chairman of the steering committee for the APBS/Lawson project, which is an unprecedented endeavor that will impact every UW System campus and its 42,000 workers statewide.

The Madison School Distrct has also been working to implement a new Lawson HR/Finance (ERP) System.

The Evils of Excellence

Susan Black on the “Trouble with Classroom Competition”:

How much competition is too much?
I asked myself that question some years ago when I was appointed director of curriculum and instruction for a Midwestern city school district. Making the rounds of the district’s 12 schools I found competition everywhere.
In a 10th-grade English class, I found kids writing essays on citizenship for a local bar association’s contest. Moving on to a middle school, I saw seventh-grade science students drawing posters for a county humane society contest in hopes of winning stuffed animals. That afternoon, I watched third-graders hop around a gym as part of a national charity’s pledge drive. The kids who hopped the longest won crayons and coloring books.
When I counted up the number of competitive activities in classrooms — more than 200 in one school year — I knew it was time to put on the brakes. It wasn’t easy, but with the school board’s support and principals’ cooperation, we reclaimed the instructional program. Competitive activities were still allowed, but they were held after school for students who wanted to sign up.

Via Joanne Jacobs and Gadfly. I wonder if students in India, China, Japan, Finland and elsewhere have curriculum planners with this point of view? This thinking seems rather Soviet, where everyone is the same except for those who are not.

Education Gains are Lost on High School Students

Alan Borsuk:

The message put forth by, among others, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on Thursday, is that the data point to the urgency of the hot new issue in education: What can we do about high school?
The priority of the issue increased with the release of data on long-term, nationwide trends in performance by students in math and reading. The information is from the National Assessment of Education Progress, a Department of Education effort that calls itself “The Nation’s Report Card.” NAEP has been testing samples of students from across the United States since the 1970s.
The results show that among 9-year-olds, reading performance in 2004 was up a significant amount, compared with both 1999 and the oldest data available, from 1971. In fact, the overall score was the highest on record.
But among 17-year-olds, the average score in 2004 was exactly the same as in 1971, and the trend has been downward slightly since the early 1990s.

Planning for MMSD Legislative Committee for 2005-06

As chair of the MMSD School Board’s Legislative Committee for 2005-06, I post information about state and federal laws and legislative issues related to the Madison Schools on this blog under Hot Topics , Madison School Board Legislative Committee blog.
In June I asked MMSD staff for the committee, Joe Quick, for his ideas on future directions for the committee. My questions and his answers are available under as well as news reports and background materials.


Edward Tufte in Madison 8/8

Presenting Data and Information: A One-Day Course Taught by Edward Tufte is in Madison August 8, 2005 ($320/person):

I attended his course in Chicago last year. Highly recommended. More on Edward Tufte.

Arizona School Drops Textbooks


A high school in Vail will become the state’s first all-wireless, all-laptop public school this fall. The 350 students at the school will not have traditional textbooks. Instead, they will use electronic and online articles as part of more traditional teacher lesson plans.
Vail Unified School District’s decision to go with an all-electronic school is rare, experts say. Often, cost, insecurity, ignorance and institutional constraints prevent schools from making the leap away from paper.

Goodbye, Class See You in the Fall: Looping in Ardsley NY Public Elementary School

The New York Times
July 11, 2005
Goodbye, Class. See You in the Fall.
ARDSLEY, N.Y. – Even though it was his last day of kindergarten, Zachary Gold, a bright, enthusiastic 6-year-old, said he wasn’t scared about moving up to the rigors of first grade. Unlike most kindergartners at the Concord Road Elementary School in this Westchester County village, he already knew who his first-grade teacher would be.


Common Expectations for All Middle Schools

Does the MMSD Web site have a link to the document titled “Common Expectations for All Middle Schools,” which the superintendent mentions as the guide for MMSD middle schools? If the site has a link, I couldn’t find it.

Letter from Art Rainwater to Sherman Parents About Changes at Sherman and Plans for all Madison Middle Schools

In response to inquiries from Sherman Middle School parents, Art Rainwater wrote a letter to parents/guardians dated June 27, 2005. In that letter he mentioned District plans to revisit the core courses taught middle school students – “…we will revisit this document [Common Expectations for All Middle Schools] again, beginning this summer, and address each of the areas in the document to ensure that our middle schools are consistent in the courses offered to each student.” I didn’t read anything about parents being included in such a process. If you have comments re your child’s middle school academics and/or what processes you hope the administration follows – send them to the School Board at
Download Superintendent Rainwater letter to Sherman parents/guardians

K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

UW Math Professor Dick Askey kindly took the time to visit with a group of writers and friends recently. Dick discussed a variety of test results, books, articles and links with respect to K-12 math curriculum. Here are a few of them:

  • Test Results:

    Wisconsin is slipping relative to other states in every two year NAP (sp?) Math test (4th and 8th grade). In 1992, Wisconsin 4th graders were 10 points above the national average while in 2003 they were 4 points above. Wisconsin students are slipping between 4th and eighth grades. In fact, white and hispanic children are now performing equivalent to Texas students while Wisconsin black students are performing above Washington, DC and Arkansas (the two lowest performers). He mentioned that there is no serious concern about the slippage.

    30 years ago, the United States had the highest % of people graduating from High School of any OECD country. Today, we’re among the lowest. We also have a higher drop out rate than most OECD countries.

    Said that he has asked Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater twice in the past five years if our District asked for and received corrections for the current connected Math textbooks.

    Mentioned that CorePlus is evidently being used at West High but not Memorial

    Asked why these math performance declines are happening, he mentioned several reasons; “tame mathemeticians”, declining teacher content knowledge (he mentioned the rigor of an 1870’s California Teacher exam) and those who are true believers in the rhetoric.

  • Books:

    Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States

    The Schools by Martin Mayer


Ask the Cognitive Scientist

Daniel T. Willingham:

Modality theory—the idea that students differ in their visual, auditory, and kinesthetic abilities and learn more when instruction is geared to their strengths—has been a popular idea for decades. But research has found that learning is enhanced by designing instruction around the content’s best modality, not the student’s.

Something New: Sun Prairie’s Website is Now a Blog

The Sun Prairie School District has launched a new website, essentially a blog with links. The key for Sun Prairie or any organization is to embrace all that that internet offers (audio, video, links, background information) and provide timely and useful information. They must frequently update the site. I wish them well. PBS’s Frontline provides a great example. Their stories include video/audio clips, transcripts, documents and extensive background data.

More on the Florence School District

Phil Brinkman takes a look at the Florence School District, which may disband:

“I want them to teach our children within their means,” said Tibbs, probably the chief antagonist in what has become a battle between cash-strapped residents and an equally cash- strapped school district over the future of education here.
Members of the Florence County School Board are finally conceding that battle after voters last month turned down the third spending referendum in the past two years. The measure would have let the district exceed state- imposed revenue caps by $750,000 a year for three years.
“There are other school districts of the same size, wealth and makeup that aren’t dissolving,” said Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of public instruction. “Clearly, things happened in this school district that didn’t happen in other school districts.”
But Evers said Florence County’s death spiral provides sobering evidence that the state’s school funding formula is overdue for a change. Under that formula, state aid is provided in roughly inverse proportion to a community’s property wealth, and the total revenue a district can raise is capped. If costs exceed that – and officials in districts from Florence to Madison to Milwaukee say they are – districts must ask property taxpayers for more.
“We will need to, absolutely, continue to find better ways to measure wealth than property value,” Evers said.

note: this link will suffer “linkrot” as Capital Newspapers takes their links down after a period of time.


“No” on Intellectual Pluralism

George Archibald:

“There are no secret agendas here. Divergency [of views] in the classroom is being stifled. More and more, what we can say in the classroom is being restricted,” said Mr. Jackson, a high school English teacher from Kennewick, Wash.
Teachers have a responsibility “to instruct students how to think, not to indoctrinate,” he said. “All this is trying to do is to open this up and to prevent restriction” of the academic freedom of students as well as teachers.
But Tom Oxter, president of a Florida higher-education group that led the fight before the Florida Legislature against a similar campaign for a student academic bill of rights there, denounced the proposal as “really just the beginning of a witch hunt” by conservatives.

Via Joanne Jacobs. Joanne also summarizes the NEA’s comments on the Achievement Gap.

Superintendent Rainwater’s Letter to Governor Doyle

Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater via WisPolitics :

Thank you for making public education in Wisconsin a priority in the budget you presented to the Legislature – a proposal that protected Wisconsin’s overburdened property tax payers and the children of the state. Unfortunately, the budget before you resembles little of what you offered for our taxpayers and K-12 students.
Since the inception of state-imposed revenue limits in 1993, Madison has cut over $43 million in its “same-service” budget and eliminated almost 540 positions – including 121 positions for the 05-06 school year. It is disingenuous for Republican leaders to claim their $458 million school aid increase as “historic,” when over 90 percent of the resources are targeted for school property tax relief, not for school programs and services. We have long surpassed cutting fat from our local budget, but have cut into bone as we increase class size in secondary instruction, eliminate classroom opportunities for students and cut support staff who assist our most needy students and families.
I urge you to use your veto authority to the fullest extent in order to restore revenue limit increases that keep pace with inflation, versus the GOP plan that cuts the allowable increase to 1.4 percent – less than half of the current inflation rate. Aside from increases in categorical aids, the revenue limit increase represents a school district’s only opportunity to fund critical programs for students.

I’m glad the Superintendent sent his comments to the Governor. It will be interesting to see where the Governor, facing a 2006 election campaign, lands on the amount of increased spending for Wisconsin schools (the battle is over the amount of increased money: the Republican budget includes a 458M increase to the 5.3B base, while Governor Doyle originally proposed a $900M increase via borrowing and other shifts).

Madison is also somewhat unique in this discussion in that about 25% of its budget comes from the State (State school spending will go up faster than inflation, in either case. The puzzle for me is the 1.4% that Superintendent Rainwater refers to. Is this due to Madison’s flat enrollment and/or based on the formulaic penalty we face for our higher than average per student spending? The enrollment situation is sort of strange, given the housing explosion we’ve seen over the past 10 years), whereas other districts receive a much higher percentage of their budget from state taxpayers. Further, Madison taxpayers have supported a significant increase in local school support over the past decade. The District’s Operating Budget has grown from $200M in 1994-1995 to $317M in 2005-2005. Art’s letter mentions “cut $43 million in its “same-service” budget and eliminated almost 540 positions – including 121 positions for the 05-06 school year”. There’s also been some discussion here about District staffing changes.

I also believe the District needs to immediately stop operating on a “same service approach”. Given the rapid pace of knowledge and information change today (biotech, science, engineering among others) AND the global challenges our children face (Finland, India, China and other growing economies – see Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat) things that worked over the past decade may no longer be practical or affordable for that matter.

Having said all that, it is difficult to manage anything when the curveballs are coming rather quickly. It would be great for the state to be consistent in the way it provides funds for 25% of our District’s budget. Similarily, in the private sector, many would love to see less risk and change, but I don’t see it happening.

It’s About the Kids

My vote re the proposal to fund two West High JV soccer teams was about the kids and was for the kids. MMSD’s athletic budget for next year will fund 8 teams in each high school for soccer, but at West the demand from kids is for 10 teams, so the parent proposal was to fundraise for the two teams that school would be short under next year’s team allocation matrix.
I appreciated the parents’ efforts to be proactive on behalf of 50 high school kids who want to play soccer. I appreciated that the parents from West High expanded the name of their group to Madison, recognizing the possible future need to help kids across the city who want to play soccer. I hope we can harness these parents’ positive efforts for future discussions about what we need to do to keep athletics and other educational opportunities strong for our kids.
Further, in my opinion the long-term issue regarding extra-curricular sports is not about the number of teams (by the way, it’s up to 66 teams for all grades per high school in several sports, not just soccer), but a) what high school athletic program do we want for Madison’s children, b) how much does that athletic program cost, c) how much can the District afford to pay, and d) how will we pay for the amount not covered in the budget. The School Board has not had this discussion and needs to have this discussion ASAP.
In the meantime, as a community member on the Partnership Committee I supported this proposal and will continue to be open to new ideas from the community in all educational areas for different ways to build community linkages that will support a strong, complete educational environment for all our kids.

Why One More Team?

If each high school will have 66 teams for each grade level, why do parents feel they need a few more soccer teams at West?

I Voted Yes to Privately Fund Two West High Soccer Teams

At its June 27, 2005 meeting, the Partnership Committee listened to a request from West High School parents (Friends of West High School Soccer) to fundraise money for an additional 2 soccer teams this fall. A committee member made a motion to allow parents to fundraise the money and that motion passed unanimously. The entire School Board will vote on the Partnership Committee’s recommendation on Monday, July 11th and I hope the majority of the School Board votes yes.
I am a community member on the Partnership Committee, and I voted yes because I want as many children as possible who want to play sports (soccer in this case) to have that opportunity, and I appreciate the parent group stepping forward to take on the job of fundraising the necessary money to field two more teams. I would also like to thank the parent group for changing their name from Friends of West High Soccer to Friends of Madison Soccer, intending to form a city-wide support group if that becomes necessary so kids can play sports in high school.
Was I concerned about equity issues among the 4 Madison high schools who field athletic teams when I voted yes? Not in this instance, because during the 2005-2006 school year each high school will have the opportunity to field up to 66 freshman, sophmore, junior varsity, varsity and combination athletic teams (264 teams in total). This district-wide team structure has a $2 million+ budget for next year that the School Board approved in June 2005.
Further, the up to 66 teams per school that is budgeted for the 2005-2006 academic year is more than the number of teams East and Lafollette High Schools had during the 2004-2005 school year and less than the number of teams that West and Memorial High Schools had this past school year.
The West High proposal is NOT about one school having teams and another school not having teams because of any disparity due to access to funding. The Athletic Committee that came up with the team structure for next year treated each school equally when it came to the number of teams per sport and total teams that would be funded.
To me, this proposal is about parents and community members a) seeing a demand for soccer greater than the District’s budget can afford next year, and b) working together to come up with a proposal for helping kids play sports. Helping kids – that’s what made so much sense to me in this proposal.
Will the School Board have to have discussions about equity when funding school activities, public vs. private funding for different activities? Yes, definitely, but I don’t think those needed future discussions should stop the School Board from going forward with a proposal that makes sense. I hope a majority of the School Board supports this proposal on Monday, July 11th. I think it’s a proposal that is good for kids, works within the existing athletic infrastructure, and we will be able to learn from this effort for future discussions about how sports are funded. Thank you, parents and community members for coming forward to help Madison’s students.

California English Teacher on Teacher Evaluations

Tod Seal discusses teacher evaluations in three parts:

  • Student Voices

    Students choosing the easy route make up a large percentage of any public school. I’d say that easily 80% of the students in any high school will choose the teacher who shows movies and simply requires basic recall of class lecture over the teacher who reads novels and requires challenging essays. Yes, students in public school choose Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

  • Teacher Voices

    It’s been suggested that there is a struggle to create “objective, articulable standards” [sic] for teacher evaluation. It’s further been suggested that teachers be evaluated based on subjective standards, in the absence of those “articulable standards.” I, for one, certainly don’t want to be judged on subjective standards and I don’t want other teachers evaluated thusly. I wouldn’t judge my students subjectively and I wouldn’t expect any boss to evaluate employees subjectively.

  • Administrator View

    Teachers in my school district are currently evaluated by a bi-annual visit from an administrator (principals and the like). Every 2 years, an administrator spends 53 minutes in my classroom, taking notes on what happens during that time. That 53-minute period, that solitary visit to my classroom on a day and time that I know about well in advance is supposed to be some type of record of how effective I am as an educator. That visit is the single requirement our district has for teacher evaluation.
    Clearly, this is a flawed system

Health Talks Won’t Be Secret

Jason Shepherd wrote about the nature of the Madison School District’s joint committee with MTI (Madison Teachers Inc.)regarding health care costs. Initially, according to Shepherd, Madison School Board President Carol Carstensen said that “the open meeting law does not apply to the committee”.

KJ Jakobsen, a parent studying the District’s health insurance costs, wants to attend the meetings to see if the district is conducting an appropriate review. “Questions have been raised for 20 years,” she says. “Change won’t happen if these meetings are secret”.

But Carstensen, in an e-mail to Jakobsen, barred her from the meetings, claiming the committee is “part of the bargaining process” and thus excluded from the open meetings law. That raised the ire of [Ruth] Robarts, who said, “The public has a right to know what the distrct has been doing about its health insurance costs”.

Read the article here. Isthmus’ web site

Are Students More Equal than Others?

Susan Lampert Smith: “West High kids may have more opportunities because their parents are able to pay so they can play”. Evidently, the issue is $6,000 in the Madison School District’s $320M+ budget.
Meanwhile, Sandy Cullen discusses an attempt to move extramural sports to MSCR (part of Fund 80) as a response to the elimination earlier this year of freshman no cut sports. Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater mentioned:

“Our problem is facilities,” Rainwater said, adding that after-school activities, practices and games, as well as community programs, are already using the space needed for an extramural program. “If we don’t have facilities, we can’t do it.”

I hope and assume that programs for our school age children always come first in these discussions.

Konkel on the City’s Budget Process

Tangential at best to this blog, but deja vu for readers. Brenda Konkel asks questions about the Madison Police Department’s $44M budget and is accused of “micromanaging”. Interesting times. Read on.

Going Online Keeps Students in Line

Tom Kertscher:

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

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

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

Gibson: Who Owns the Words?

William Gibson:

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

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

Though not all of us know it – yet.

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

Developing Credibility

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

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


California’s Proposed School Funding Changes

Nanette Asimov:

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

Only Half of Committees Have Met

Since the committee chairs announced goals for their committees on June 7, only three committees – Long Range Planning, Finance and Operations, and Partnerships — have met. No committees have meetings scheduled for July or beyond.

Online Middle School Math Assessment

Check out your middle schooler’s math skills with an online Saxon Math placement test.
Saxon Math offers excellent math programs from all grade levels. Some parents ask the teachers not to assign math homework to their child and use daily Saxon Math lessons instead.

Florence School District Likely to Close in One Year

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

125 Science Questions

Science Magazine:

In a special collection of articles published beginning 1 July 2005, Science Magazine and its online companion sites celebrate the journal’s 125th anniversary with a look forward — at the most compelling puzzles and questions facing scientists today.

Property Taxes Biggest Share of Income in Milwaukee and Madison Areas


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

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

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


Wisconsin Senate Passes Budget

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

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

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