Milwaukee Schools Health Care Coverage Changes

Alan J. Borsuk and Sarah Carr:

Milwaukee Public Schools teachers will begin shouldering a larger share of the costs of their health care under an arbitrator’s ruling issued Tuesday.
The decision ended 2 1/2 years of work on a two-year contract for more than 6,000 teachers with a victory for the School Board and the administration of Superintendent William Andrekopoulos.
After management and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association deadlocked – almost entirely over health insurance issues – the dispute went to the arbitrator, Marquette University Law School Professor Jay Grenig, who was required to pick between the final offers of each side without making any changes.
Under the MPS plan, teachers would begin paying portions of the cost of their health care, including deductibles and co-pays on many services. Administrators say the district pays more than 60 cents in fringe benefits for every dollar it pays in salaries.

Gorman Drops Ridgewood Plans

By mid-December of 2005, a task force appointed by the Madison School Board will make recommendations about future school construction and possible school boundary changes in the West and Memorial High School areas of the district. In the following article from The Capital Times, August 30, writer Cliff Miller reports that developer Gary Gorman has withdrawn from his role in the redevelopment of a large apartment complex adjacent to Leopold Elementary School. The complex—Ridgewood Country Club Estates—has housed low-income families whose children have attended Leopold and Chavez Elementary Schools. The nature of the new housing and the timing of the redevelopment could have significant implications for west side elementary school enrollments, particularly the future enrollment at Leopold School.

Continue reading Gorman Drops Ridgewood Plans

Middleton Schools Referenda & New Website

The Middleton-Cross Plains School District has posted information on their upcoming vote on borrowing $53 Million to finance the construction and operation of a K-8 school, a new transportation center, and improvements to several elementary schools. Ann Marie Ames has more. The District also has a new website with the latest news posted on their home page. The site also includes the ability to pay for meals online.

Jefferson Middle School Spanish Teacher Suspended

Sandy Cullen:

A Madison middle school teacher has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an independent investigation of a sexual harassment complaint filed by 28 parents, district officials said Tuesday.
Jefferson Middle School Principal John Burmaster said that when school resumes Thursday there will be a new Spanish language teacher in place of Hector Vazquez, whom parents say created a hostile learning environment for their children last year.
“That’s good news,” said Roger Greenwald, one of the parents who filed the Title IX complaint against Vazquez on Friday because they were not satisfied with the district’s initial investigation of their concerns this past spring.
In their complaint, parents said Vazquez showed students an R-rated movie, made repeated references to his personal sexual exploits, stared at girls’ breasts in class and touched students in a way that made them and observers uncomfortable.

More from Steve Elbow.

Conn. Files Long-Awaited Lawsuit Challenging No Child Left Behind Act

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has made good on his nearly 5-month-old threat to sue the U.S. Department of Education over the No Child Left Behind Act, making his state the first to take its objections about the law to the federal courts.
Filed Aug. 22 in U.S. District Court in Hartford, the state’s complaint in Connecticut v. Spellings argues that federal funding to the state for the No Child Left Behind law falls far short of what is needed to meet the law’s testing and accountability requirements. The suit contends the failure to fully fund the law violates a provision in the nearly 4-year-old education statute itself that says states will not be required “to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this act.”
From Education Week, August 22, 2005
By Jeff Archer

Continue reading Conn. Files Long-Awaited Lawsuit Challenging No Child Left Behind Act

Madison Schools SAT Scores

The Madison School District announced that the 24% of eligible Madison students taking the SAT scored the highest ever and remain significantly above state and national averages:

Madison students’ composite score is 1266, up 37 points from four years ago (1229) and up 16 points from last year’s results (1250). The 1266 Madison composite is well over the state average composite of 1191, and significantly over the national average of 1028. (See tables below for details.)
The 16 point improvement is attributable to higher scores on both the verbal and math portions of the exam. The average verbal score for Madison students is 624, up from 615 the previous year. The average math score is 642, up from 635 in 2003-04.

The College Board posted national results and aggregate scores here.

More on the Elimination of No-Cut Freshman Sports

Susan Lampert-Smith:

At Memorial, Athletic Director Tim Ritchie said he hopes kids who get cut will find a team in an expanded intramural basketball league through Madison School Community Recreation.
“You hope that you have a good intramural program that keeps kids working towards making the team next year,” he said.
I worry about the kids for whom basketball or volleyball would have been their only school activity. And I’m even more worried about the kids who won’t try out because they fear not making the grade.
Those are the missing kids that Joe Frontier worries about.
Sometimes, there’s no real way to know the true cost of saving money.

Lampert-Smith mischaracterizes this decision as a “cost of saving money.” The Madison School District’s budget grows annually (including the generation of grant funds, which is to be commended), this year to $320M+. Rather, the Madison School Board’s decision to eliminate no-cut freshman sports reflects choices made, or not made, such as:

  • Ongoing reductions in Fine Arts Curriculum
  • Controversial growth in health care spending (WPS costs far more than the Group Health Care alternative)
  • Growing administrative budgets ($1.5M more this year than last)
  • Shifting programs to MSCR, which is funded by Fund 80. Fund 80 is a growing, controversial source of local property tax revenue that is not constrained by state spending caps.

Loehrke’s recent speech to the Florence schools provides a roadmap for such decision making: putting students first.

What can you do? Send your thoughts on these matters to the Madison School Board: and ask 2006 Madison School Board Candidates about these issues. Two seats are up for election in April, 2006; those currently held by Bill Keys and Juan Jose Lopez.

Herbert: Left Behind, Way Behind

Bob Herbert:

First the bad news: Only about two-thirds of American teenagers (and just half of all black, Latino and Native American teens) graduate with a regular diploma four years after they enter high school.
Now the worse news: Of those who graduate, only about half read well enough to succeed in college.
Don’t even bother to ask how many are proficient enough in math and science to handle college-level work. It’s not pretty.
Of all the factors combining to shape the future of the U.S., this is one of the most important. Millions of American kids are not even making it through high school in an era in which a four-year college degree is becoming a prerequisite for achieving (or maintaining) a middle-class lifestyle.

The complete report can be found here (PDF). Campaign for America’s Future Website.

An Exchange with Juan Lopez on Minority Hiring

Isthmus featured a story on the concerns of Juan Lopez about MMSD hiring of people of color.
I sent Juan the following e-mail telling him that I shared his concern:

I agree completely with your concerns about minority hiring in the district, as reported in Isthmus. When I attended committee and board meetings in the past, Valencia Douglas was the only district staff of color (unless Clarence attended). Now that she’s gone, we’ll only have a sea of white faces! So sad.
Ed Blume

As an afterthought in a second e-mail, I said:

As chair of the Committee on Human Resources, you’re in a great spot to look at district hiring. When you do, I hope that you can make some changes.

He responded in the following e-mail:

Mr. Blume,
Apparently you have not been closely following the BOE because I have been involved directly and indirectly in the district hiring especially as it relates to hiring people of color. I was also involved prior to being elected to the BOE as a member of the District’s Affirmative Action and the Superintendent’s Human Relations Advisory Committee. The only other people I know who have been as involved and outspoken were Jerry Smith, Jr. and Ray Allen. Johnny Winston and Shwaw Vang have also begun to make a difference. Not only have we been critics, we have actually done something about it. Thank you and have a great weekend.
Juan Jose Lopez

And I responded:

I meant my comments as a compliment and support. You seemed to take them as a criticism.
I sincerely wish you luck in getting more people of color into the top administrative positions in the district.
It’s been a concern of mine for years. I did a lot of analysis on the issue and tried to get the Cap Times, State Journal, and Isthmus to write stories, but they never did. If I’d had the blog at those times, I would have had a place to post my analysis. Now it’s out of date, and the data is harder to find to redo the analysis because the district no longer posts reports on minority hiring on the Web site. The last useful information was posted in a press release in 1995. I’d love to see the district prepare a similar analysis comparing the 1995 figures on minority employees to today’s figures.
Again, I wish you well in your efforts.

Korean Summer School

Norimitsu Onishi writes from Seoul:

JUST as she did during the school year, Jeong Hye Jin, 15, spent the long, sweltering summer commuting to her high school by day and to private classes in the evening.

Summer school was mandatory, not for students who had fallen behind, but for those who, as she put it, “have a chance of getting into good universities.” Not attending was never an option for Hye Jin, who is ranked 17th out of 430 students in the 10th grade at Young Hoon High School, in a working-class neighborhood here in the capital.

Michigan Takes a Step Toward Small High Schools (400 Students)

Nolan Finley writing from Detroit:

The hope is that this first, small school will turn into a statewide system of high schools linked to businesses and hell-bent on preparing Michigan kids for the best colleges, the best jobs, the best futures.
“We know from research that small high schools are making a big difference in the lives of young people across the country,” says Granholm, who approached Apple about coming to Detroit during a visit to Silicon Valley several months ago. “When a global corporation like Apple makes a commitment of this magnitude to education in Michigan, it underscores how critical it is that we prepare all of our children for the 21st-century economy.”
Michigan certainly isn’t doing that today. You’ve read these statistics before, but they are so bleak, so disturbing, that they bear repeating at every opportunity, lest parents forget how greatly their children are being cheated:

I think Madison should also explore smaller high schools (including smaller facilities).

School News Roundup

  • Fuel Costs Pinch School District Budgets
  • Nick Anderson on Prince George’s County School System overpaid employees by more than $1m last year:

    The overpayments, mentioned briefly by the school system’s outside auditor in a report made public in July, were documented in greater detail in an internal audit dated June 30. The Post obtained the internal audit through a public-records request.

    Some employees were allowed to rack up “negative leave balances,” meaning they were paid for time off beyond what they were owed.

    Some employees who had retired and then returned to active service under a special state program had salaries larger than allowed under law.

  • Local Legislator Takes on Bullying in Schools (Via WisPolitics)
  • NPR News:Kids have easy access to junk food.

Isthmus: Is the Madison School District’s Leadership too White?

Click on the image to view the article.
Jason Shephard starts Isthmus’s excellent biweekly Talking Out of School Column with a look at the Madison School District’s minority hiring policies.

“I don’t think we’re doing enough to put people of color into influential positions,” says [Board Member Juan Jose] Lopez, who halted a routine approval of new hires at a board meeting earlier this month to criticize the district’s minority hiring record.

School Board Member Ruth Robarts says [Superintendent] Rainwater’s minority administrator hiring rate of more than 40% this year is to be commended.

According to a note next to this article, Talking out of School will be available on Isthmus’s website. We’ll link to those, of course.

Tutoring Firms Are Gaining From NCLB

In an August 4, 2005, an MS-NBC Report indicates tutoring firms (for profit, and non-profit), because schools and districts are ailing under the NCLB law, are doing well. Public schools are going to be funneling $900M to these private companies to tutor kids from schools that are not making adequate yearly progress. And, there are no standards that such firms need to maintain to get these funds, according to the article.
Among other issues:
“One sore spot is that some of the most troubled public school schools systems like Chicago’s have been forced to shut down their own after-school tutoring services because of federal rules that apply to failing districts.
Beth Swanson of Chicago Public Schools figures that means only 25,000 students will get services in the coming year, down from 80,000.”

Reading First Under Fire


By January of 2003, Kentucky reading officials were frustrated. They had just been denied federal Reading First funds for the third time, and state leaders worried that they might lose the opportunity to bring in an unprecedented $90 million for reading instruction in grades K-3 over six years. Like most states strapped by budget cuts, they could not afford to lose that money.
Months before, consultants to the federal program strongly suggested to state officials that Kentucky’s choice of assessment was a major sticking point in their pursuit of the grant. According to the officials, consultants pushed them to drop the assessment they were using, Pearson’s Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), and choose the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), which was quickly becoming the most widely used test under Reading First. But there was a problem: One of the consultants on the four-member team had a second job — as a trainer for DIBELS.

Eduwonk has more.

Jefferson Middle School Teacher Accused of Sexual Harassment

Sandy Cullen:

Twenty-eight parents have filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Madison School District against a Jefferson Middle School teacher they claim created a hostile learning environment for their children last year.
Roger Greenwald, a member of the Committee of Concerned Parents of Jefferson Middle School, said the Title IX complaint was filed Friday because parents were unhappy with the district’s initial response to their concerns about Spanish teacher Hector Vasquez, who came to Jefferson last year from Sennett Middle School.

Dallas Schools Require Some Principals To Learn Spanish

The Dallas School Board has approved a policy that will require some school administrators to learn Spanish. The new policy, approved by a 5-4 vote on Aug. 25, now requires that all elementary school principals who work in schools in which at least half of the students are English-language learners, or formerly carried that designation, must learn the native language of those students.
From Education Week, August 26, 2005
By Mary Ann Zehr

Continue reading Dallas Schools Require Some Principals To Learn Spanish

Rubric for School Improvement Posted on Performance and Achievment Blog

The Performance and Achievement Blog contains a new posting describing a rubric for school improvement. The rubrics allow one to estimate the current status of the schools and District with regard to the following: Student Achievement, Quality Planning, Professional Development, School Leadership, Partnerships with Community and Parents, Continuous Improvement and Evaluation.

Texas School Launches Virtual Cafeteria

Jamie Stengle:

A suburban Dallas school district launched the “Virtual Cafeteria” site to show what’s being served each day at each school. It can tally nutritional information for items on a lunch tray, including calories, fat grams, carbs, protein, vitamin A and vitamin C.
For instance, a meal of a chef salad, a slice of pizza, a cookie and milk will cost $4.75 and runs about 746 calories.
“We are really making a valiant effort to put nutritional information in the hands of our customers, be it parents, a grandmother, a teacher or the student themselves,” said Rachelle Fowler, student nutrition director for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district.

TOTN: Tips for First Time Teachers

Talk of the Nation:

Thousands of rookie teachers across the country nervously contemplate study plans and wonder if they can live up to the expectations of students, parents, the principal and themselves. Classroom veterans offer advice to the new teachers. Guests:
Jennifer Westra, first-time teacher at Liliam Lujan Hickey Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nev.
Rafe Esquith, author of There Are No Shortcuts and longtime fifth-grade teacher in Los Angeles
David Espinosa, New York City teaching fellow


DPI Open Enrollment Hearing

Wisconsin DPI (PDF):

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction will conduct a hearing Aug. 29 at the agency headquarters in Madison to take public testimony on a change in administrative rules affecting the open enrollment program. The hearing will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 041 of the GEF 3 Building, 125 South Webster Street, Madison.


Jane Brody: Preparing for the School Year

Jane Brody:

Dr. Ari Brown – pediatrician in Austin, Tex., spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of “Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year” – cautions that in haste to get children the clothes and supplies they need for school, health issues are sometimes overlooked.
She and other experts offer the following advice:
BACKPACKS Many children have no lockers in school and are forced to carry all their books back and forth to school and between classes. An overweight pack can cause muscle strains and overuse injuries and distort the child’s posture.
A loaded backpack should not weigh more than one-fifth of a child’s weight. The pack’s shoulder straps should be wide and padded on the back as well. The pack should always be carried using both straps. “Now and then, a parent should check what’s in the pack and determine if everything has to be carried daily,” Dr. Brown suggested.

Reader Questions

Several Madison School District parents emailed the following questions recently:

  • “I was just trying to find information on teachers in the Madison School System. Is there a site that you know of that gives information on the teachers (bio, cv, anything)?” This seems like a good idea. Perhaps each school’s website could include a teacher page?
  • “[There’s been some discussion] that multi-age classrooms are not the best learning environment for all kids. Does your group have any access to studies or data on multi-age classrooms? Apparently, MMSD has plans to make these the district-wide approach to elementary schools.”

Please post information you might have on these topics by clicking the comments link below. Thanks.

High School Sports: The Cruelest Cut

Eli Saslow:

He arrived 10 minutes before his fate, so Filip Olsson stood outside Severna Park High School and waited for coaches to post the cut list for the boys’ soccer team.
Olsson, a sophomore, wanted desperately to make the junior varsity, but he also wanted justification for a long list of sacrifices. His family had rearranged a trip to Sweden so he could participate in a preparatory soccer camp; he’d crawled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for two weeks of camp and tryouts and forced down Raisin Bran; he’d sweated off five pounds and pulled his hamstring.

Sort of related: Sunday’s Doonesbury on overstressing our children.

Continue reading High School Sports: The Cruelest Cut

How Will the Madison School Board Evaluate the Superintendent? Stay tuned.

Since 1999, the Madison School Board has had a written employment contract with Superintendent Art Rainwater. It contains a job evaluation process that is fair to the superintendent and that requires the Board to perform its most important function, setting clear goals for the district.
Before the first day of each school year, the Board must set performance goals that are “measurable to the extent possible”. By July 30 of the next year, the Board must meet with the superintendent, review his progress toward meeting the performance goals, review his self-evaluation, and review confidential evaluations by other administrators in the district.
If the Board followed the contract, the superintendent and the public would know what’s expected of the most powerful employee in terms of “improvement in programs, projects and activities to be undertaken” during the upcoming year.
According to the MMSD Human Resources department, the last time the Board evaluated the superintendent was in 2002. It did not follow all of the requirements of the contract in that evaluation.
The first day of the school year is September 1. The Board has not set measurable performance goals for the superintendent for 2005-06, although it has had two discussions on the subject.
When the evaluation does occur, I suggest that we all compare the provisions of the contract with the evaluation. If the Board does not set measurable performance goals for the superintendent in 2005-06, it will again fail in its duty under the contract.It will again fail to inform the public about its priorities for our children and fail to hold the superintendent accoutable under the priorities.

Continue reading How Will the Madison School Board Evaluate the Superintendent? Stay tuned.

More on Technology & Schools

Additional grist:

  • Amy Hetzner:

    Underheim argues that technology could save schools money if they used it more creatively. Instead of funding two classes of 10 students apiece with both an algebra and a geometry teacher, he asks, why not combine the classes, give every student a computer with software for the specific subject they are trying to learn and keep just one math teacher available to help with special problems?

  • Matt Richtel:

    Yet in less than five years, that entire market has come undone. By 2004, sales of educational software – a category that includes programs teaching math, reading and other subjects as well as reference works like encyclopedias – had plummeted to $152 million, according to the NPD Group, a market research concern.
    “Nobody would have thought those were the golden days,” Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, said of the late 1990’s. “Now we’re looking back and we’re saying, ‘Wow, what happened?'”

  • Troy Dassler, Larry Winkler, Tim Schell and Ed Kowieski posted a number of useful comments and links regarding Technology & Schools.

UPDATE: Hetzner posts the 3rd and last part of her series on Technology & Schools here:

University Lake School in Delafield has enough wireless laptop computers for every student and teacher in grades six through 12 — a 5-year-old venture that is part of an experiment known in education circles as one-to-one, or ubiquitous, computing.

Slashdot discussion.

Why Does College Cost so Much

Richard Vedder:

As college students begin a new academic year, many parents are reeling from tuition fees. This fall’s probable average 8% increase at public universities, added onto double-digit hikes in the two previous years, means tuition at a typical state university is up 36% over 2002 — at a time when consumer prices in general rose less than 9%. In inflation-adjusted terms, tuition today is roughly triple what it was when parents of today’s college students attended school in the ’70s. Tuition charges are rising faster than family incomes, an unsustainable trend in the long run. This holds true even when scholarships and financial aid are considered. One consequence of rising costs is that college enrollments are no longer increasing as much as before. Price-sensitive groups like low-income students and minorities are missing out. A smaller proportion of Hispanics between 18 and 24 attend college today than in 1976. The U.S. is beginning to fall below some other industrial nations in population-adjusted college attendance.

Why not target school ads at adults, not students?

No doubt that the Madison Schools would benefit from revenues that might come through increased advertising, as recently proposed by Johnny Winston Jr., chair of the Board of Education’s Finance and Operations Committee.
On the other hand, increasing advertising to our students is undesirable for many reasons. Schools should not treat students as consumers, but as learners. Our students already live in an environment saturated with encouragements to consume. In addition, many of the advertisers with strong incentives to advertise to young people sell food products that are not in the kids’ best interest.
My hope is that the Finance and Operations Committee will consider limiting any expansion of advertising opportunities to ads that target adults, not students.
Below is my proposal to this committee.

Continue reading Why not target school ads at adults, not students?

Technology and Schools

Amy Hetzner:

“We don’t have a lot of proof that this works,” said Neah Lohr, the former director of the informational media and technology team for the state Department of Public Instruction. “Certainly students like the technology. That’s not the question.”
Research results are mixed. But most studies conclude that for computers and other technology to have much effect on student performance, a number of conditions are necessary: Teachers have to be technologically adept; classroom assignments have to allow for exploration; and curricula have to abandon breadth for depth.
Although schools have made changes in some of those areas, particularly increasing teachers’ technical proficiency, the predominant uses of computers remain word processing, heavily filtered Internet searches and the occasional PowerPoint presentation. In addition, with pressure rising to improve test scores, more schools have embraced skill-drilling software that contributes little to long-term student learning, observers say.

My view is that technology is simply another tool that may be part of a successful learning process. Critical thinking, rigor and general inquisitiveness are far more important than learning Word 2003 (which will be obsolete by the time our students reach the workforce). Successful technologists are capable of learning and using any tool. I was reminded of our priorities yesterday while visiting Sun Prairie’s CornFest: a teen could not make change (1.50 change was given for a 2.50 purchase from a $5.00 bill). More posts on this subject.

More on the Evils of PowerPoint in Schools

Amy Hetzner:

Teachers say creating a PowerPoint presentation captivates students and gives them background using a technological tool common in business.
Critics say PowerPoint requires students to do little more than assemble outlines and is a poor replacement for age-old standards such as essays.
Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University, has been one of the most vocal opponents, such as in an opinion piece called “PowerPoint is Evil” carried in the September 2003 edition of Wired.
“Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials,” Tufte wrote.
With 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art for each PowerPoint slide, with only three to six slides per presentation, that amounts to only 80 words for a week’s work. “Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something,” he wrote.

More on Powerpoint and schools here.

Board & Admin Don’t Know Whether Read 180 Received Funding

Since May I’ve been asking the administration and board members, collectively and individually, whether the budget for this school year includes funding for a promising middle school remedial reading program called Read 180. The headline on a State Journal story on January 29, 2005, read: District Eyes Reading Program For Expansion. The subheadline said: Teachers Want More Students In The Read 180 Program, Which Has Raised Reading Levels Quickly.
But NO ONE seems to know whether the program received any funding at all in the budget!

Continue reading Board & Admin Don’t Know Whether Read 180 Received Funding

Florence School District Presentation: Is it Possible to Have a Good School District with Less Money?

Steve Loehrke:

Word for word, these are my original goals:

  • 1. Keep our school in our community. Make the school a focal point in our community. Create opportunities for community involvement in our school. Maintain and increase school pride.
  • 2. Balance the budget. Keep looking for costs savings that do not negatively affect the education of our students. Continue plans to balance the budget after the referendum money ends.
  • 3. Provide the best education possible within the budget. Educate the most students possible for the dollars allocated by the revenue cap.
  • 4. Improve test scores. Results must improve in every area tested. Hold the administration and teachers accountable for the test scores. Find ways to obtain test scores that make our students, parents, teachers, administrators, and members of our community proud.
  • 5. Improve teachers. Reward the good teachers. Retrain, eliminate, or replace any ineffective teachers. Increase morale. Require accountability.
  • 6. Improve administration. Reward the good administrators. Retrain, eliminate, or replace any ineffective administrators. Review and recommend updates to school procedures. Require accountability.
  • 7. Improve the school board. Seek responsible board members. Hold the school board accountable for reaching the goals of the board.
  • 8. Work with the parents of home-schooled and parochial school students to see if our school can find ways to help the students achieve a well-rounded education.
  • 9. Listen & Learn. Listen to the concerned members of our community, students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff. Implement the constructive suggestions of the Steering Committee and Action Teams for Long Range Planning that relate to board goals.
  • 10. Pay attention to details. Review and update board policies and school procedures. Update union contracts. Require a day’s work for a day’s pay. Monitor expenses. Protect the assets of the school district.

(Print Friendly PDF version – 280K).
More on the Florence School District. Loehrke is President of the Weyauwega Fremont School District. [Map]
Loehrke referenced some results, such as:

  • Raised the wages of our teachers, administrators, and every employee in the district.
  • As of June 30, 2004, our fund balance (sometimes called Reserve Account) was $3,042,726
  • Our mill rate was reduced from the highest in our area to the lowest.

Drop Out Rate Correlation to High School Enrollment


The Sun Prairie School District’s increasingly active weblog:

On August 9, 2005, a public hearing was held on the proposed high school facilities in Sun Prairie. At the hearing a question was asked regarding the high school drop-out rates for all Wisconsin public high schools. Drop out rates refer to the percent of students who do not complete a high school education We have compiled information for three years for all public school districts except the Milwaukee Public Schools. The data is the latest information available from DPI. A clear pattern is evident over the three years. It is apparent that as high schools grow above 1500 students, the percentage of drop-outs doubles and triples over that of high school with enrollments between 1000-1500.

Sun Prairie is planning to construct two new, smaller higher schools rather than one very large facility.

Madison Schools ACT Scores

Madison School District:

Madison students who took the 2005 ACT college entrance exam continued to outperform their state and national peers. MMSD students’ composite score was slightly higher overall on the ACT compared to a year ago, 24.3 vs. 24.2 (scale of 1 to 36), while the average ACT score this year for Wisconsin students was 22.2 and nationally, 20.9.
Almost 74 percent of the MMSD students in the Class of 2006 took the ACT, a record number. Generally, when more students take the test, scores drop. However, the average MMSD ACT participant scored higher than roughly 72% of all Wisconsin ACT participants and higher than 78% of all ACT participants across the country.

Many Going to College Are Not Ready – ACT

Tamar Lewin:

Only about half of this year’s high school graduates have the reading skills they need to succeed in college, and even fewer are prepared for college-level science and math courses, according to a yearly report from ACT, which produces one of the nation’s leading college admissions tests.
The report, based on scores of the 2005 high school graduates who took the exam, some 1.2 million students in all, also found that fewer than one in four met the college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects tested: reading comprehension, English, math and science.

Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

American Beverage Association:

Under the new policy, the beverage industry will provide:

  • Elementary Schools with only water and 100 percent juice.
  • Middle Schools with only nutritious and/or lower calorie beverages, such as water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks, and low-calorie juice drinks. No full-calorie soft drinks or full-calorie juice drinks with five percent or less juice until after school; and
  • High Schools with a variety of beverage choices, such as bottled water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks, and juice drinks. No more than 50 percent of the vending selections will be soft drinks.

The American Beverage Association is asking beverage producers and school districts to implement the new policy as soon as possible. Where school beverage contracts already exist, the policy would be implemented when the contract expires or earlier if both parties agree. The success of the policy is dependent on voluntary implementation of it by individual beverage companies and by school officials. The policy will not supercede federal, state and local regulations already in place. ABA’s Board of Directors, which unanimously approved the policy, represents 20 companies that comprise approximately 85 percent of school vending beverage sales by bottlers.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the U.S., and the responsibility for finding common-sense solutions is shared by everyone, including our industry. We intend to be part of the solution by increasing the availability of lower-calorie and/or nutritious beverages in schools,” said Susan K. Neely, ABA president and chief executive officer.

Pepsi Statement | Coke Statement (not yet online). Betsy McKay has more (click the link below).

Continue reading Soda Marketers To Reduce School Sales

“How to Reform Your Local School Board”

Steve Loehrke:

I have been the President of the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board for the last four years. I own a small realty and appraisal company,a small computer, and Internet website development company. I recently founded a non-profit charitable corporation to help underprivileged children in Wisconsin. I serve on the school board primarily as a concerned parent of school aged children and as a taxpayer
I always tell my employees “Don’t bring me a problem without bringing me at least two possible solutions.” So I’m going to tell you what I perceive to be the problem and give you some possible solutions. Some people perceive the problem to be not enough money for education and their only solution is to dig deeper into taxpayer’s pockets. From where I sit, the problem is “How do we maintain or improve the quality of education in Wisconsin while controlling the current and future costs to taxpayers?”
Most people associated with schools in Wisconsin are worried about some type of tax freeze because they think it will limit the money available to schools. I am not. Here’s why: Historically, school districts budgeted for what they thought they would need to run their respective district and raised taxes to match. Then, around 1993, as part of the QEO law changes, the State of Wisconsin established revenue caps. So instead of a bottomless billfold, school districts suddenly had a fixed amount of taxpayer’s money placed into their billfold each year. They had to learn to spend no more than they made, just like most people with regular jobs. However, instead of learning to do with what was available, school districts did things like promote referendums to exceed the revenue cap.
Before I got on the Board, our school district tried three times until they finally received voter approval for a referendum. When I got on the Board, I was told that our district would have to plan for another referendum when the existing one ran out in order to keep our district afloat. Demographics showed that our school district would be switching from an increasing enrollment to a declining enrollment. I have observed that an increasing enrollment hides many financial problems while a declining enrollment emphasizes the problems. Our school district had been running deficits budgets and was depleting its fund balance to pay regular expanses. Our mill rate was one of the highest in the area. Our administrative overhead was one of the highest in the county. Our employees’ health insurance costs were one of the highest in our neighborhood. Our post retirement costs were the highest in our conference. Yet, everyone said they expected another referendum to sustain the bloat. No one wanted to tighten the belt.

More on Steve Loehrke.

2005 ACT Scores: Minnesota #1, WI Minority Achievement Gap Increases

Alan Borsuk (69% of Wisconsin’s Class of 2005 took the ACT):

Wisconsin kids in the Class of 2006 averaged 22.2 on a scale of 36 on the ACT, the same score for Wisconsin for the sixth straight year. But the average score in Minnesota moved up a tenth of a point to 22.3, breaking last year’s tie for the best record among 25 states where the ACT is the dominant exam.
Wisconsin officials said 10.2% of the 45,700 students in the Class of 2005 who took the ACT were from minority groups, up from 9.8% in 2004.
However, the gap between white students and some minority groups, particularly African-Americans, remained a major concern, both Ferguson and Burmaster said, and the new results presented little evidence that the gap was closing.
The composite score of black students in Wisconsin was 16.9 this year, compared with 17.2 a year ago. The composite score of white students stayed the same at 22.6.
ACT officials also report results based on whether students took what is considered a “core curriculum” for getting ready for college – at least four years of English and three years of math, natural sciences and social sciences.

Wisconsin students who did that had an average score of 22.9 while those who took less than the core program averaged 20.9. Both figures were a point or better than the comparable national averages.

ACT data and results are available here.

Online Tutoring Part of Growing Web Education Tools

Mark Chediak:

When students in Leslie Chernila’s English class at the Art Institute of Washington write an essay about the work of Garrison Keillor, she has them send it off to a critic halfway across the country before turning it in. The paper soon returns, complete with comments about structure and word choice.
The service, offered by District-based Smarthinking Inc., is part of a growing educational trend that has millions of students logging on to get assistance with reading, writing and arithmetic. Once a dot-com pipe dream, online education is now maturing into a viable market. More than 2.6 million students in the United States were expected to study online through courses and tutoring last fall, up from 1.9 million in 2003, according to the Sloan Consortium, an online research group.
Burck Smith, chief executive and co-founder of Smarthinking, credits the rise in demand for online educational services to several factors, including an increase in the number of non-traditional students who don’t have a lot of time to look for on-campus resources, a more competitive educational landscape in which colleges and schools are trying harder to attract students with additional services and students’ greater familiarity with the Internet.
More than 500 institutions, including Anne Arundel Community College, Gallaudet University and the Art Institute of Washington, subscribe to Smarthinking. And the company says it has signed up 19 institutions for this fall, including District-based Southeastern University.

Continue reading Online Tutoring Part of Growing Web Education Tools

Milwaukee Public Schools Community Advisory Hearing on School Closings

Milwaukee Public Schools – PDF:

With 95,600 students enrolled in its facilities, and room for 122,000 students, MPS has too much vacant space. To save money and more prudently use MPS resources, the administration, working with consultants, developed the draft guidelines for public input. After the public has had the opportunity to provide feedback, the guidelines will be finalized and sent to the school board for final approval this fall.

Healthy Kids = Successful Kids; BadgerCare Can Help!

Getting school supplies, adjusting to a new morning routine, doing homework again, meeting new friends, and joining sports teams and after school clubs: it all adds up to make heading back to school a busy time for children and families. But Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Madison School Board member Johnny Winston, Jr., and a working family who gets its health care through BadgerCare are urging parents to set aside a few minutes to explore their options for free or low-cost quality healthcare.

Continue reading Healthy Kids = Successful Kids; BadgerCare Can Help!

100 Black Men of Madison Back to School Picnic on Saturday 8/27

The 100 Black Men of Madison Annual Back To School Picnic will be held on Saturday August 27th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Demetral Park on Commercial and Packers Ave. This event will be held rain or shine. Now in its ninth year, this event will distribute 1,800 backpacks filled with much needed school supplies for “at-risk” elementary and middle school students.

Continue reading 100 Black Men of Madison Back to School Picnic on Saturday 8/27

Update on Future of Ridgewood Apartments

One of the issues affecting decisions on attendance boundaries for Leopold Elementary School is whether the Ridgewood Country Club Apartments, located across the street from the school, will continue to house large numbers of low income families.
The following article from The Capital Times provides an update on the ownership and future plans for the apartment complex.

Continue reading Update on Future of Ridgewood Apartments

7 State Students Ace the ACT (out of 251 Nationwide)

Amy Hetzner:

Werner, who is 17, was one of seven Wisconsin high school students who posted a 36 on the ACT during the 2004-’05 testing cycle, according to data released by ACT Inc. on Friday. They were among 251 students nationwide who averaged a top score on the battery of English, reading, science and math tests during that time.
In addition to Werner, Astrid Stuth of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee and Kent Rosenwald of Waukesha North High School represent the Milwaukee area. Corey Watts of Madison West High School and Dan Gerber of Onalaska High School got perfect scores, too. All of the students, except for Gerber, were juniors when they got their 36s. Gerber was a sophomore.

68% of Wisconsin students took the ACT (national average is 40). Those taking the test scored slightly higher than the national average composite score (22.2 vs. 20.9). State comparisons can be found here and here.

Colorado’s TABOR Battle

Jason DeParle:

The stricter Colorado cap does three things: it imposes firm spending caps (which grow only to reflect population and inflation), returns any excess revenues to taxpayers and allows only voters, not legislators, to override the caps.
Both sides agree that the measure reined in the budget. The growth in per capita spending fell to 31 percent in the decade after the cap from 72 percent in the decade before, according to the Independence Institute, a Colorado group that favors it.
Supporters say the cap ignited the subsequent economic boom, with low taxes luring businesses. They also say it kept the state from overspending when flush only to face painful cuts later. “Tabor saved Colorado’s fiscal fanny,” said Jon Caldara, the institute’s president……
Another major fight is under way in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pushed an antispending provision onto the fall ballot, albeit one seemingly less strict than that of Colorado.
In Maine, a veteran tax opponent, Mary Adams, is gathering signatures to put a spending cap on the ballot next year. And last year, the leader of the Wisconsin Senate, Mary Panzer, a moderate Republican, delayed convening a special session to consider a spending cap. That drew a primary challenge from a conservative rival, Glenn Grothman, who defeated her in what Mr. Norquist calls a watershed moment.

Washington Post Editorial on Teacher Training

Washington Post Editorial Page:

The results are almost unanimous: Standards are low, teacher training is poor and unless something is done right away, there will be an enormous teacher shortage, particularly in math and science, within the next decade. The Teaching Commission — a group whose board includes former IBM chief executive Louis V. Gerstner Jr. and former first lady Barbara Bush — concluded that rigid rules for teacher pay have failed to attract teachers to more difficult schools and more difficult subjects; that education schools needed higher standards; and that teacher licensing should be more rigorous. Last May the National Academy of Education issued a set of recommendations designed to deal with precisely the same problems: performance-linked teacher pay, incentives to teach in urban and poor rural schools, higher standards for teacher training, and more support for beginning teachers. The Education Trust, which has studied the extraordinarily weak content of teacher training curriculums, advocates rigorous quality standards that will make the entire teaching “market” more effective by identifying better teachers and allowing them to command higher salaries.

Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

In a recent letter to the editor of Isthmus, KJ Jakobson asks “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?”
Here is the full text of the letter, published on August 10, 2005, and her challenge to the Madison School Board.

Continue reading Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

Junk Food Nation: Who’s to Blame for Childhood Obesity?

In recent months the major food companies have been trying hard to
convince Americans that they feel the pain of our expanding waistlines,
especially when it comes to kids. Kraft announced it would no longer
market Oreos to younger children, McDonald’s promoted itself as a salad
producer and Coca-Cola said it won’t advertise to kids under 12. But
behind the scenes it’s hardball as usual, with the junk food giants
pushing the Bush Administration to defend their interests. The recent
conflict over what America eats, and the way the government promotes
food, is a disturbing example of how in Bush’s America corporate
interests trump public health, public opinion and plain old common sense.
The latest salvo in the war on added sugar and fat came July 14- 15,
when the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on childhood obesity and
food marketing.
by Gary Ruskin and Juliet Schor
The Nation, August 29, 2005

Continue reading Junk Food Nation: Who’s to Blame for Childhood Obesity?

Survey Finds Students Want Tougher Schools

From the Associated Press and the Wisconsin State Journal:
A Survey Finds High School Students Want More Demanding Coursework To Prepare For Work And College.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
BEN FELLER Associated Press
The campaign to make high school more demanding seems to be picking up support from the people who have the biggest stake in the matter: the students.
Almost nine in 10 students say they would work harder if their high school expected more of them, a new survey finds. Less than one-third of students say their school sets high academic expectations, and most students favor ideas that might add some hassle to their life, such as more rigorous graduation standards and additional high-stakes testing.
“The good old times in high schools are being replaced by good old hard work,” said Peter Hart, whose Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted the survey for the “State of Our Nation’s Youth Report,” released Tuesday. “There’s a recognition among students that they have to be more ready to compete.”
The nonprofit Horatio Alger Association, which provides college scholarships and mentoring to needy students, issued the annual report on youth attitudes. The findings are based on a phone survey of 1,005 students in high school last May.

Continue reading Survey Finds Students Want Tougher Schools

School Climate at an LA South Central High School

Michael Winerip:

Teachers rarely know the full story behind their students, and this is particularly so at Locke, in South Central, one of the city’s poorest and toughest areas. “So much goes on away from school,” says Ms. Levine, who loses students to homelessness, pregnancy, work, drugs and jail. She never knows which ones will make it through. Most don’t. The ninth grade at Locke four years ago had 979 students; in June, 322 graduated.

The Internet at School

Lee Rainie and Paul Hitlin (PDF version):

The internet is an important element in the overall educational experience of many teenagers. Schools are a common location where online teens access the web, although very few online teenagers rely exclusively on their school for that web access. Further, there is widespread agreement among teens and their parents that the internet can be a useful tool for school. However, 37% of teens say they believe that “too many” of their peers are using the internet to cheat. And there is some disagreement among teens and their parents about whether children must be web-literate by the time they begin school. Additionally, large numbers of teens and adults have used the web to search for information about colleges and universities.
The most recent Pew Internet Project survey finds that 87% of all youth between the ages of 12 and 17 use the internet. That translates into about 21 million people. Of those 21 million online teens, 78% (or about 16 million students) say they use the internet at school. Put another way, this means that 68% of all teenagers have used the internet at school.
This represents growth of roughly 45% over the past four years from about 11 million teens who used the internet in schools in late 2000. In the Pew Internet Project survey in late 2000, we found that 73% of those ages 12 to 17 used the internet and that 47% of those in that age cohort used the internet at school.

Ads in Madison Schools: Correction of Capital Times article

Thanks to Christina Daglas for her coverage of the Madison School Board’s “cautious” approach to increasing advertising in the schools. If there is serious business interest in more advertising, the Board must consider the possibilities and the public deserves advance notice that we may increase ads.
I am not, however, concerned “about businesses that, in (my) opinion, fail to advance positive messages in their advertisements, such as fast food companies”, as the article states.
I said that I will not support more advertising of products that undermine our curriculum. I gave Coca-Cola ads as an example because I believe that ads for soft drinks undermine the messages of our health curriculum. The Board should not increase advertising for products whose consumption contributes to demonstrated increases in childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We are already a venue for too many of these ads and products.

Triangulating Teachers

Jenny D:

The big difference between the US. and other nations is at the low end of the achievement spectrum. Our kids who score low are at the VERY bottom, well below the lowest scoring kids in other nations that we compare ourselves to (think Germany, Japan, Singapore, Denmark). Thus our average score is much lower than that of other nations. Not because our smart kids are scoring poorly, but because we have so many kids at the bottom, and our bottom is so low.
This is overlooked by education ideologists who just want to whine without solving problems. And the solutions don’t cost more money. But they demand that we rethink the way we deploy educational resources. I’m talking as a nation, not a parent. Any individual parent wants what they want for their kid. But from a public policy perspective, it is better for the nation as a whole if we raise the floor.
All the organizational stuff–class size (and btw, the rich white parents in my district are the MOST vocal about getting smaller class sizes, and many send their kids to private schools in order to get junior into a class of 18), desk arrangements, etc.–is just moving deck chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. Education is in trouble because it’s very core is rotten. We don’t know how to teach teachers.

Wade Questions Constitutionality of Doyle Budget Vetoes

Fred Wade questions Governor Doyle’s vetoes that recently provided more funds for Wisconsin Schools by moving funds and increasing state debt:

There are at least six reasons why the most important vetoes that Gov. Jim Doyle made in the 2005-07 state budget are unconstitutional.
The text, history, design and structure of the Wisconsin Constitution all make clear that legislation must be authorized and enacted by the Legislature in order to be a legitimate exercise of governmental power.
The vetoes violate this basic requirement of our fundamental law by deleting words, digits and punctuation marks from the bill that the Legislature passed in order to create new spending mandates that the Legislature did not authorize.
It is as if someone found your checkbook on the street and wrote checks on your account without your permission, except that these checks are written for amounts in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Continue reading Wade Questions Constitutionality of Doyle Budget Vetoes

Monday Madison School Board Meeting Summary

Cristina Daglas:

The debate about advertising in Madison schools continued Monday night as School Board members came a step closer to forming a subcommittee to examine the issue.
After years of stiff opposition to similar proposals, board members are being cautious. In a meeting of the Finance and Operations Committee, board member Johnny Winston Jr. said district policies currently do not allow advertising. But with tight budgets, no avenue should be overlooked, he said.

AP Audits

Doug Guthrie:

The quality of Advanced Placement programs is coming under scrutiny at a time when educators are pushing to strengthen the academic level of high school class offerings.
Come February, the college prep classes at high schools across the nation will be audited amid concerns that some schools may be offering watered-down versions of AP courses. Full descriptions of every AP course, syllabus, sample assignment and sample exam for the 2007-08 year will be reviewed.
“Administrators are under pressure to create advanced-type classes. Parents want them. Policy-makers want them. If I’m being told to teach Advance Placement, I can put AP in front of any course name,” said Jim Ballard, executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. “Of course, it’s more than simply adding the name, and that’s where the College Board is crying foul.”
The College Board, which sets AP curriculum standards and conducts nationwide exams each spring, is reviewing the courses in response to calls from colleges and universities about ensuring the rigor of AP classes, officials said.

Eduwonk has additional comments

More on Free Curriculum: Princeton Issues DRM Textbooks

Richard Forno:

Alas, the e-books are encoded in DRM which pretty much spoils the potential success of this pilot project:

  • Textbook is locked to the computer where you downloaded it from;
  • Copying and burning to CD is prohibited;
  • Printing is limited to small passages;
  • Unless otherwise stated, textbook activation expires after 5 months

  • Activated textbooks are not returnable;
  • Buyback is not possible.

We all need to become familiar with the ongoing DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) machinations all around us. Things are getting worse. Learn more about DRM via wikipedia.

Rigor & College Readiness

Keeping on topic 🙂 Dave Newbart finds that 1/3 of Illinois’ high school grads are not ready for college. Thus, 2/3 apparently are (evidently not, according to the article).

If colleges are to retain and graduate more students, the state needs to do a better job of educating them long before they set foot on campus, lawmakers and educators said Thursday.
New research presented by the Illinois Education Research Council at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Higher Education showed many Illinois high school graduates are simply not prepared to go to college.
More than one-third of Illinois graduates are not ready for college, said Jennifer Presley, director of the council, which is tracking nearly the entire class of 2002. Another 28 percent are only partially ready, she said. Yet 43 percent of the least ready students go to college, and 58 percent of minimally ready students do.

Joanne Jacobs has more.

Continue reading Rigor & College Readiness

PEOPLE, cont.

Joan, since you don’t allow response comments to your posts, I am forced to post here.
I’m sorry that I misread your editorial comments about what you imagine the PEOPLE program and its students to be about, to constitute a larger set of questions about fairness and access to UW-Madison. So, to keep it short and sweet, here are my responses to what I take to be your two primary questions:
1) Do I believe that students with a 2.75 GPA can succeed at Madisson?
Yes. I have first-hand experience with our undergraduate population and the people who serve them, probably more than you. There are studens with 2.75 GPAs and lower who do very well at Madison; there are students who come in with 3.5 and higher GPAs who founder. SOURCE: student service workers and admissions staff at UW-Madison.
2) Do I believe that the admissions rules should be bent for students who complete the PEOPLE program?
Yes, IF that is what is happening. The article says that students must maintain a MINIMUM 2.75 GPA to stay in the program; there is no information on the average GPA of PEOPLE students admitted to UW-Madison. As quoted in my previous post, the article clearly says that PEOPLE graduates who are unlikely to succeed are not admitted. As such, I must believe that there is some judicious application of admissions criteria in borderline cases.
That said, the University of Wisconsin System has a responsibility to prepare all of its students for the world they will inherit. That world is increasingly multi-ethnic, and all students’ employment options are very much linked to employer perceptions of whether those students are culturally competent to succeed in businesses with diverse staff and customer bases. Simply put, the future employment options of our students rest on our ability to recruit and retain a diverse student body. This becomes a factor on the side of giving students the benefit of the doubt in borderline admissions cases, and has little to do with whether those students ultimately succeed or fail.
On a personal note, I salute you and your accomplishments. I worked my way through UW-Madison from the age of 17, ending with an MA and PhD in history, at the time ranked fifth in the United States (minoring in sociology, ranking first in the United States)against private and public insitutions. I know that the curriculum is rigorous. I came into the graduate program with 26 students;there were 3 of us left after the MA level. As a grad student I was a tutor and a TA, and you are rightfully proud of your achievements. However, that does not entitle you to make uninformed assertions about what high school students who are working hard to prepare for higher education are or are not likely to achieve if admitted.

9-13 Year Old Test Score Gains Are Largely in The South

Gail Russell Chaddock:

Much of the national progress reported for 9- and 13-year-olds was driven by gains in the South. For example, while 9-year-olds in the Northeast gained 10 points in reading achievement (the equivalent of a grade level) over the past 30 years, the South gained 24, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). While reading scores for 13-year-olds barely budged in most of the United States, the South gained 12 points, more than a grade level.
It’s vindication for a generation of Southern governors, business groups, and educators who launched the standards movement in education a decade before it was picked up by the rest of the nation.

Struggling to stay on topic, the debate continues…

Your anger at your experience with MMSD is palpable. I’d like, however, to stick to the main point of my original post which is whether UW should be lowering admission standards for students who participate in the PEOPLE program. Whatever you think of the validity of those requirements, it doesn’t change the fact that it is what nearly every other student has to contend with. And nothing you have said persuades me that a student with a 2.75 GPA has a very good shot at succeeding at UW. (And I didn’t say every PEOPLE grad got in to UW, but it’s clear that they will not necessarily be held to the same admission standards as everyone else.) I also don’t see why you have such trouble accepting my query whether this program will actually turn out successful college graduates, and at what cost. (Perhaps you don’t remember the airbrushing incident, where a minority student was photoshopped into a glossy UW brochure to create the impression of greater diversity) I’d hope this program isn’t a bandaid but genuinely prepares students to deal with the rigors of college.
I come from a hard science background. Your belief that a motivated student, albeit with a significantly lower GPA, will ask good questions begs the question. The rigors of science and math education are not much about sharing cultural or experiental differences. You can either do it or not–motivation AND preparation. And I’d argue that while GPA certainly isn’t the ideal measure, it does indicate some commitment and participation in the process of education.

Continue reading Struggling to stay on topic, the debate continues…

PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues

(With apologies to readers – it is not possible to respond using the comments feature on the blog.)
Response to Lucy’s Post on PEOPLE program
JOAN: Tempting though it is to rebut your arguments tit for tat I am not sure it will necessarily be productive.
RESPONSE: I would be interested in a “tit for tat” response to my comments on the reasons why the PEOPLE program is needed.
JOAN: Let’s back up and look at the assumptions underlying this program. The first is that minority students are not getting adequate preparation in their home schools. You assert that this is true in the well-staffed, well-funded Madison school district because of institutional racism. You believe your visual review of a school proves your point. That’s not particularily strong evidence.
RESPONSE: I think you need to go back and read what I wrote. I said,

“All of the above examples are conditions that I have witnessed first hand or, in one or two cases, have heard of from other parents – including parents of white students. When the above conditions disappear and/or white students experience these same conditions, we can talk about equity.”

Nowhere did I say or imply that my comments were “based on a visual review of a school.” It is true that there is no systematic, methodologically defensible, study of how students of color and their parents fare in Madison’s schools. I would welcome a well-crafted study of this nature.

Continue reading PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues

Organizational Learning from Open Source

I cringe when I hear people in any organization discussing “our experts know the best”, or generally advocating a top down, command and control approach. Paul Graham recently wrote a wonderful article on the lessons we can learn from “Open Source”. He refers to open source software and blogging among other avocations. Graham includes three lessons from the open source and blogging worlds:

  • People work harder on stuff they like
  • The standard office environment is very unproductive
  • Bottome up often works better than top-down.

Graham is a technologist and investor.

Response to Lucy’s Post on PEOPLE program

I feared this would become personal. Tempting though it is to rebut your arguments tit for tat I am not sure it will necessarily be productive. If necessary I will, though I prefer to look past your anger which now seems aimed directly at me.
Let’s back up and look at the assumptions underlying this program. The first is that minority students are not getting adequate preparation in their home schools. You assert that this is true in the well-staffed, well-funded Madison school district because of institutional racism. You believe your visual review of a school proves your point. That’s not particularily strong evidence. This isn’t about ability but preparation and motivation. West is tough on all kids, just for the record. (And for the commenter below who mentioned that a kid with a 3.6 from West might not be in the top 10%, you’re exactly right–one B in four years and you’re out of the top 5%, two B’s and you’re out of the top 10%, historically anyway. But then what does that say for the student with a 2.75 at West who can get into UW through the PEOPLE program?)
Here is why I commented. What troubles me is whether this will be a fruitful program or just a bandaid, which is why I expressed the hope that this was designed in a way to measure genuine success as defined by actually graduating from college.This is assumption number one, that this program is not just about getting minority students on campus but actually successfully graduating. And I don’t think it out of line to then ask whether it is a cost-effective program.
But more important, at least what could be gleaned from the story, it sounds to me like UW alters its admission requirements for those who attend faithfully the PEOPLE program. I have a big problem with a different set of rules for those participating in a program not open to all students.
As I said in my first post, I had first-hand experience tutoring minority students from Milwaukee. They clearly needed the kind of advance preparation this program offers. Thus, I am not opposed to a summer program, but I have serious questions about bending the admission rules. Moreover, it is beyond me how someone could successfully attend and graduate from UW with such low admission scores. I say that as someone from a blue-collar family who was a Wisconsin honor scholar, Phi Beta Kappa/honors undergrad, UW MS (teaching assistant) and UW law degree, (to succumb for a moment to a tit for tat.)
I am also here to tell you that my children did not for the most part feel supported in MMSD. Welcome to the club, in other words. However, they did have the advantage of an intact, financially secure family, college-educated parents and alot of opportunities low-income kids miss out on. So let me repeat that I’m not opposed to offering college prep classes to kids who need it. But I still think they need to meet the same standards at the end of the day. Otherwise, we may as well gift them with a college diploma, skip the four/five year investment of time and energy, and just strip away the facade that this is supposed to be about advanced education.


I was saddened and disappointed by the tone, content, and assumptions underlying Joan’s recent post on UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program and feel a need to respond as a parent who is engaged in trying to address cultures of racism in Madison schools and as a graduate and staff member of UW-Madison. I’ve interspersed the responses with Joan’s original wording:


WKOW TV on Madison Schools Overcrowding


In May, voters rejected referendums for more operating money and a new “Leopold” school. That failed budget meant significant staffing cuts. But in the case of the new school, the district admits, they had no back-up plan. Now, the board is working to address student issues, as Madison continues to grow.
“Both parents and staff are going to find things a lot more difficult… We cut custodians, we cut teaching positions, we cut services, we cut people downtown,” says school board president Carol Carstensen.
A long range planning committee has been asked to seriously evaluate boundary changes in the district.

Free the Curriculum!

Jimbo Wales:

The second thing that will be free is a complete curriculum (in all languages) from Kindergarten through the University level. There are several projects underway to make this a reality, including our own Wikibooks project, but of course this is a much bigger job than the encyclopedia, and it will take much longer.
In the long run, it will be very difficult for proprietary textbook publishers to compete with freely licensed alternatives. An open project with dozens of professors adapting and refining a textbook on a particular subject will be a very difficult thing for a proprietary publisher to compete with. The point is: there are a huge number of people who are qualified to write these books, and the tools are being created to leave them to do that.
I just wanted to add one little note to today’s post, based on an excellent philosophical question Diana Hsieh asked yesterday about my views on free knowledge. While I do, in fact, think that it is wonderful that each of the ten things I will list will be free, the point of naming the list “will be free” rather than “should be free” or “must be free” is that I am making concrete predictions rather than listing a pie in the sky list of things I wish to see.

Jimmy Wales is the founder of wikipedia

UW’s Long-term College Prep Program Puts Prospects In The Pipeline

The Wisconsin State Journal discusses the college prep program UW sponsors for middle (Madison students only) and high school minority students.
Glaringly absent from the reporting is what are the criteria for getting accepted into this program. It sounds like a program open only to minority students, or is it for low-income students of color?
While it has barely been in existence long enough to produce college graduates, I would hope someone is studying PEOPLE’s effectiveness. For instance, I’d like to see a control group who can’t attend these summer sessions but who are given the same break on admission, (2.75 GPA is all that’s required), and if accepted at UW, the students also get a full five-year tuition scholarship. Then I’d like to see the numbers on those who graduate and in what time period and at what cost.
Many years ago while I was a UW zoology grad student, I was a paid tutor through a university program aimed at assisting minority students. All my students were from Milwaukee. None was prepared, either for the intro zoo course or for college in general. Thus, I am sympathetic to the idea of helping these students before they enroll at the university. However, I have to question the lowered admission requirements. If you can’t cut a 2.75 in high school, you’re not likely to successfully complete a degree at UW-Madison.
In addition, I noticed that two of the students interviewed in the article were from Madison West. Is MMSD so deficient in preparing its (low income) minority students that they can only hope to succeed with this special program? I can understand how students coming from poorly funded and troubled disticts like Milwaukee might need extra attention, but Madison West?
Moreover, I know students at West who did not get in to UW despite GPAs of 3.6 and higher. This is the best education many can afford for their children. To learn that their students cannot get admitted while some are allowed in with significantly lower requirments and paid summer college prep courses might be a bitter pill to swallow. (For the record, both our children were accepted at UW.)
So I have two questions: are there checks in place to determine whether this is an effective program, and cost-effective at that, given the 5+ million dollars expended on about 1200 individuals; and how does the UW legitimately justify employing markedly different admission criteria, especially if PEOPLE isn’t open to all students who wish to participate.

Continue reading UW’s Long-term College Prep Program Puts Prospects In The Pipeline

WEAC Paying for Doyle TV Ads

In a rather quick followup to Governor Doyle’s recent budget line item changes (details), WEAC is running TV ads supporting his budget changes. Colin Benedict has more:

The first thing you notice about a new ad touting Gov. Jim Doyle’s work in the budget is that it feels like a Doyle campaign ad.
But it isn’t. Its paid for by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state teachers’ union. When it paid to run the ad at WISC-TV, WEAC dropped off a 52-page document justifying every claim made in this ad.
The ad says, “After inheriting a budget mess, Gov. Jim Doyle has saved millions by cutting waste and balancing the budget.” That is true, News 3 reported. When Doyle took office, the deficit was the largest in state history — $3.2 billion. However, “cutting waste” is a very subjective term — one person’s waste is another’s lifeline.
WEAC’s definition of waste is $60 million for Milwaukee’s Marquette interchange, $35 million to study work to the zoo interchange, and $94 million in proposed rate increases for nursing homes and other health care providers. Doyle vetoed it all to find more money for schools.
The ad also credits Doyle for balancing the budget. News 3 points out he is required by law to do that. He is not allowed to run deficits like the federal government.
The ad goes on to explain the governor understands working families are being squeezed by taxes.
The ad says, “That’s why he froze property taxes, cut the gas tax, and eliminated state taxes on Social Security. All while keeping the state’s promise to fund our great schools.”
This needs clarification. The ad is giving Doyle credit for three ideas originally introduced by Republicans.

Blogs, Podcasts and Virtual Classrooms

Ethan Todras-Whitehill:

He was introduced to blogging as an educational tool by Patrick Delaney, Galileo’s librarian. Mr. Delaney also helped Mindy Chiang, a Mandarin-language teacher at Galileo, set up a blog for her Chinese-American and Chinese immigrant students to write about and post their experiences for the benefit of fifth and sixth graders from schools in Elk Grove and Santa Barbara, Calif., who were studying Chinatowns.
Ms. Chiang and Mr. Delaney were delighted to discover that the quality of the writing for the blog surpassed her students’ previous work. Moreover, when Ms. Chiang had them record audio versions of their essays in English and Mandarin using school iPod’s, the students’ accents were vastly improved.
“It’s pretty clear that they were worried about being embarrassed,” said Mr. Delaney, noting that the essays were available to the students’ families and Web surfers in China. “Having an audience compelled these kids to step it up a notch.”
Still, some educators are not completely sold on the value of interactivity. “If interactivity becomes the fundamental basis of the educational process, how do we judge merit?” asked Robbie McClintock, a learning technologies expert at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Wisconsin DPI Receives a $17M Charter School Grant

Wisconsin DPI (PDF):

The grant will support the planning, design, and implementation of charter schools in areas of the state with a large proportion of schools that have been identified for improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Additionally, it will support increased collaboration among educational partners to enhance the charter climate and support educational options through charter schools; assure quality educators and strong leadership in every charter school; increase capacity for opening charter schools that boost student achievement and comply with NCLB and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004; evaluate the effectiveness of charter schools and share those results; strengthen management and fiscal sustainability of the state’s charter schools; and increase parent, teacher, and community involvement in the development of charter schools through the dissemination of best practices that improve student achievement.

Minneapolis Public Schools Offer Virtual Classes

Sam Dillon:

Physical education is one of 27 online courses now offered by the Minneapolis Public Schools, which had none four years ago. Thousands of other districts nationwide are adding online courses, said Susan Patrick, director of educational technology at the federal Department of Education.
“We’re seeing just tremendous growth,” Ms. Patrick said, “in enrollments and in the kinds of courses offered.”
In a survey, the department estimated that there were 328,000 student enrollments in online courses offered by public schools during the 2002-3 year. Ms. Patrick said enrollments had probably doubled since then.

This is a great example of the “out of the box – non same service thinking” that is required today. Johnny’s post illustrate’s the District’s same service financial challenges:

  • Revenue caps limit spending growth (though Madison spends $13K+ per student, among the highest in Wisconsin)
  • A “same service” budget approach has reached its’ limit.
  • Choices need to be made, one of which could be growth in virtual tools.

Virtual programs may, in some cases and for some students, be far more effective. We all use virtual learning tools daily. I believe our children will increasingly do so as well.

Guest Editorial to the Simpson Street Free Press

Dear Editor:
Thank you for your comments regarding the reductions in Madison Metropolitan School District’s 4th and 5th grade elementary strings program and other Fine Arts programs. I personally know the importance of the strings program. I played the violin many years ago as a student at Lindbergh Elementary School. I continue to support Fine Arts programming. My board motions, budget amendments and voting record reflect those priorities. However, given our budgetary challenges I cannot make a strong commitment to any program in the future.

Continue reading Guest Editorial to the Simpson Street Free Press

Aptitude Aplenty

Kathy Lally:

Ohmygosh. She screamed and turned to her father, Martin Fraeman, who had picked her up at Blair in the family Toyota. I’m a finalist! A finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, the competition that might as well be a junior Nobel Prize. Abby called her mother and screamed again. The hundreds of hours she’d spent researching her astronomy project at Washington’s Carnegie Institution had given her a shot at winning one of the nation’s most coveted science awards.

Jallon Brown: Annapolis Charter School Principal

Tyler Currie:

Still, when Jallon showed up in Annapolis last August with her proposal to create KIPP Harbor Academy, she was not received with open arms. For months, the Anne Arundel County school board appeared poised to reject Annapolis’s first charter school, which would be publicly funded but independently operated. School board members worried that the charter school would drain students and resources from Annapolis’s two existing middle schools. Jallon, who lives in Hanover near Arundel Mills Mall, found herself in constant — and ultimately successful — negotiation with school board members and leaders from the county teachers union.