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.

5 thoughts on “Reader Questions”

  1. The first thing that comes to mind is: “Google it!”…but you may not find much on the individual. I would recommend talking with fellow parents but, my experience tells me that everyone has a different opinion. Had I been concerned about the teach who is *stern* or *doesn’t smile much*…my son would not have had a great year of learning!
    I would recommend talking with them directly, share a conversation, just like you would the new family who just moved in next door.
    I would also recommend attending the first PTO meeting and ask your organization to include this in your parent newsletter. Ours includes answers to questions like:
    1. Tell us briefly about your career as an educator.
    2. Whom do you admire and why?
    3. If you could live in another time in history, when would that be and why?
    4. Tell us about your most memorable (ah-ha orwow) moment as an educator.
    5. How do you think schools will be different in 10 years?
    6. The crew from extreme make-over (school edition) is coming to to your school. What would you have them do?
    And many more….
    Ask your child’s teachers or principal to provide you with some websites that you can do your own research on multi-age classrooms. “Google it” yourself.
    Send an email to the MMSD BOE and adminstrative staff with your concerns:

  2. Re: MMSD’s use of multi-aged classrooms at the elementary level, we’ve had this system at Gompers Elementary for the past 5 years. Essentially it was adopted (perhaps necessarily) due to some oddities in grade sizes. Initially parents were skeptical, but I can tell you it has worked amazingly well! The key is the teacher, of course.Organization and desire to succeed go a long way to ease the complexities of teaching 2 grades simultaneously. The kids took to it quickly and the modeling by older to younger kids is great. It also provides a nice review for older kids while pushing the younger grade to new heights academically. Besides, in this fiscal climate, multi-aging fills empty seats…not a problem on the west side, but certainly on the east side! Dave

  3. I echo Dave’s comments re: multi-age classrooms. They work really well when the teachers involved are committed to the concept and want to be teaching multi-age. On the other hand, it may not be successful if a teacher doesn’t want to do it and is forced to adapt to the format due to ‘numbers’. The elementary school I’m most familiar with switched to all 4/5 combo classrooms a couple of years ago and it’s worked fabulously. The teachers love it and the kids are doing well. As far as research goes, just like most other topics in education, you can probably find articles that both support and oppose the multi-age concept. My experience with it has been really positive. (I also was in multi-age classrooms as a kid in Appleton in the 1970’s….at that time, we had combo 1/2/3 and 4/5/6 classrooms.)

  4. To the first question on teacher CV’s, Bio’s, etc.
    I do not know anywhere to find that information, but talking directly to them, as suggested, is a good idea.
    With regard to individual opinions about teaching style, stern, tough grader, etc, I’ve found that that information is not particularly reliable. My child has had teachers others have not liked that my child thought wonderful, and vice versa.
    However, if your questions are not specific to particular teachers, the District is said to be data driven.
    The District has a student achievement data warehouse that should house teacher demographics by grade, school, etc. Some of such information is known to be an important factor in student achievement, and I would be surprised if that information is not used as a component of school improvement.
    On your second question, analyses should be available from the data warehouse that would justify multi-age classrooms, and describe the kids (statistically) who benefit and do not benefit from such classrooms.
    You raise very important questions, which the Board’s Performance and Achievement committee should have answered and presented to the public and parents.
    Since the Board is ultimately and statutorially responsible to the public for ensuring student achievement, we need to ensure that they receive and publish such justification.

  5. I should add that when Sue Abplanalp came to Gompers at our request (2002 I think it was), she brought the requisite data showing the benefits of multi-aged classrooms. I don’t recall any data about what types of kids are NOT benefitted by multi-aged classrooms. Our experience at Gompers has been such that an entire grade might include a multi-aged class AND a single-aged class. We did have three 4/5 classes last year. It was more of the team teaching model used in middle schools, where core subjects are delivered by a specific teacher and the kids rotate through. I thought this was an excellent preparation for middle school!

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