Charter School Proposal Being Met With Resistance

WISC-TV reports:

A tug of war over students and state aid could be shaping up in Dane County. News 3’s Toni Morrissey has been looking into plans for a charter school that’s making waves in the public school community. . .
“We agree with the concept of charter schools,” said Joe Quick, legislative liaison for Madison School District. “We embrace it. But we’ve got grave reservations about setting up a charter school that there’s no oversight and accountability from locally elected officials.

Read the full story online.

MSCR High School Extramural Program Position Announcement

The Madison School District has two positions for the new High School Extramural Program at MSCR. The purpose of this position is to develop, promote and coordinate after school clubs and extramural sports at two regular high school sites and for one alternative high school. Lucy Chaffin wrote: Hi everyone, I would really like to get the word out about these two positions open at MSCR. Please pass along and post at any place you feel is appropriate.


Frontline: A Class Divided

Frontline has just made one of the most requested shows of all time available online for your viewing pleasure: A Class Divided:

A Class Divided is an encore presentation of the classic documentary on third-grade teacher Jane Elliott’s “blue eyes/brown eyes” exercise, originally conducted in the days following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. This guide is designed to help you use the film to engage students in reflection and dialogue about the historical role of racism in the United States, as well as the role of prejudice and stereotyping in students’ lives today.

Via Dewayne Hendricks video Very nicely done with transcripts, links and a teacher’s guide.

Handcuffed, isolated, and gagged

The task forces looking at eastside and westside enrollment and facilities operate under a set of “givens” that restrict the options they might consider, isolate them from publilc discussion, and control what items they can discuss at meetings.


Book: Education Myths: What Special Interest Groups Want You to Believe about Our Schools, and Why It Isn’t So

Jay P. Greene:

In Education Myths, Jay P. Greene takes on the conventional wisdom and closely examines twenty myths advanced by the special interest groups dominating public education. In addition to the money myth, the class size myth, and the teacher pay myth, Greene debunks the special education myth (special ed programs burden public schools), the certification myth (certified or more experienced teachers are more effective in the classroom), the graduation myth (nearly all students graduate from high school), the draining myth (choice harms public schools), the segregation myth (private schools are more racially segregated), and a dozen more.

Watch or listen to a recent Jay Green Speech here.

Parent – Teacher – Student Relationships

Sue Shellenbarger:

The large majority of teachers, of course, are well-qualified and dedicated. Parents should weigh a child’s complaints carefully: Is the problem really a bad teacher, or a misdirected kid? “Many times the parent only gets the child’s side of the story,” says John Mitchell, deputy director of the American Federation of Teachers union.
The rumor mill can be misleading. Matt Sabella of Armonk, N.Y., was warned by other elementary-school parents that his daughter’s teacher was “so-so.” He found the opposite to be true. The teacher “helped my daughter become a whiz in math,” Mr. Sabella says. Also, if you rescue a child too quickly, you risk producing what some administrators call “teacups” — carefully crafted but fragile kids who lack resiliency, says Patrick Bassett of the National Association of Independent Schools, Washington, D.C.

Suburban Dane County School District Growth

Gena Kittner posted a useful article on the growth, both in student population and facilities of suburban Dane County School Districts.

Eleven of 16 school districts in the county have shown increased enrollment between 2001 and 2004, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.Madison is grappling with growth in more than half of its district and declines elsewhere.

Madison’s enrollment has been flat for quite some time, though the population is moving around:

Two task forces, including parent representatives from each of the district’s schools [East] [West, are working to find ways to accommodate a projected increase of more than 500 elementary school students over the next five years in the West and Memorial high school attendance areas – where several housing developments are in the works.
The groups are also wrestling with high enrollment at some elementary schools and under-enrollment at others, in the East and La Follette high school attendance areas.
Based on last year’s figures, the district projects that by 2010, it will have 192 more students than it has seats for on the district’s west side, and 989 more seats than students on its east side.

Take Nothing from the MMSD at Face Value

The MMSD’s “data-driven” administration provides plenty of numbers and authoritative sounding assertions.
Take none at face value. The facts are often riddled with incomplete data, and the assertions are usually unsubstantiated.


Superintendent Burmaster To Address State Gifted Conference

State Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Burmaster will address the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted (WATG) State Conference on Thursday, October 6, 2005 at the Kalahari Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, WI. Burmaster will proclaim October 9-15, 2005 as Gifted Education Week in Wisconsin. She will also announce the publication of the Gifted and Talented Resource Guide for Educators, Coordinators and Administrators in Wisconsin Public Schools, distributed to all school districts this past summer. The authors of this guide will be receiving special recognition and an award from WATG following Burmaster’s address.
For more information contact Jackie Drummer 414-762-4785. The guide can be downloaded from the WATG site

Madison Schools: New Fund 80 Based Rec Sports Program

The Madison School Board approved (6-1) additional spending using Fund 80 (property taxes not subject to state revenue caps, in other words, local taxes that can go up as fast as the District approves) to create new rec sports programs:

  • Sandy Cullen:

    Ruth Robarts, the only board member to vote against the spending increase, expressed concern that using Fund 80 to restore programs that have been cut from the portion of the district’s budget subject to revenue cap feeds “the perception that Fund 80 is a slush fund.”
    Robarts asked that a public hearing be held before the board took action, but a motion to table the measure failed.
    Board President Carol Carstensen said board members agreed to cut the number of freshmen and junior varsity teams with the understanding that MSCR would try to create a recreational sports program to provide opportunities for more students to participate in athletics.

  • Cristina Daglas:

    Three board members voiced concerns before the funding was approved. Member Ruth Robarts, the sole dissenter, tried to table the proposal until after a public hearing could be held. The table motion failed 5-2. Member Shwaw Vang said he was wary many of the district’s neediest students still would not be reached and member Lawrie Kobza said she was concerned about costs of the sports-related aspect already in MSCR’s budget.
    But despite concerns, a majority of board members felt it necessary to push the program’s development ahead. Board President Carol Carstensen said the only reason she agreed to the elimination of no-cut freshman sports months ago was because of the possibility of this extramural program.

The Achievement Gap in Elite Schools

Samuel G. Freedman
“An uneasy amalgam of pride and discontent, Caroline Mitchell sat amid the balloons and beach chairs on the front lawn of Princeton High School, watching the Class of 2004 graduate. Her pride was for the seniors’ average SAT score of 1237, third-highest in the state, and their admission to elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Duke. As president of the high school alumni association and community liaison for the school district, Ms. Mitchell deserved to bask in the tradition of public-education excellence.
Discontent, though, was what she felt about Blake, her own son. He was receiving his diploma on this June afternoon only after years of struggle – the failed English class in ninth grade, the science teacher who said he was capable only of C’s, the assignment to a remedial “basic skills” class. Even at that, Ms. Mitchell realized, Blake had fared better than several friends who were nowhere to be seen in the procession of gowns and mortarboards. They were headed instead for summer school.”

Mathews on Charter School Bias?

Jay Mathews:

But I have learned that both my newspaper and I have been, in at least one instance, treating them as if they did not exist — a bad habit shared by many across the country. Nobody likes to be ignored for no good reason, but that is what has been happening to charter schools, and it is not good for the 1 million students attending 3,500 such schools in 40 states plus the District.
In Greenville, S.C., the Sirrine scholarships of $200 to $2,000 have helped many public school graduates over the years, but Laura H. Getty of the Greenville Technical Charter High School said charter school students are not eligible. She has also noticed that the state of South Carolina does not allow charter school teachers to participate in the state retirement system unless they were in the system before they moved to a charter school.

Illinois Teacher Calls Art Rainwater’s Recent Message “Misquided”

Bruce Allardice, a public school teacher in Des Plains, ILL wrote a letter to the Capital Times in response to Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent article on the need for public education:

Dear Editor: If I was grading the Tuesday guest column of Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater titled “Free public education is cornerstone of country,” I’d give the superintendent a D. His rhetoric is nice, but the logic is horribly misguided.


Wisconsin Virtual Schools

Sandy Cullen recently posted two very useful articles on local Virtual School activity:

  • Sun Prairie family enrolls in an Appleton Virtual School:

    Their mother spends four to five hours a day guiding her daughters through daily lesson plans, drawn primarily from curriculum developed over the past century at the Calvert School, a private “bricks-and-mortar” school in Baltimore, where tuition ranges from $14,000 to $17,000 a year for its 500 on-site students.
    Home-schoolers can buy Calvert’s curriculum and support services at prices ranging from $245 for pre-kindergarten to $760 for eighth-grade.
    But because her children are enrolled in Wisconsin Connections Academy, Leonard pays nothing. State taxpayers provide about $5,745 to the Appleton School District for each of her daughters. That’s the amount all school districts receive for students who live in another district and register through the state’s open-enrollment option.

  • 2 Virtual Schools Sued by WEAC:

    The state’s largest teachers union has filed lawsuits — one unsuccessful and another ongoing — against two of the state’s virtual charter schools, claiming they violate state laws.

Time to Discuss the 05-06 Budget Before Final Approval in October 2005

We may have thought the 2005-2006 MMSD budget was approved last spring, but, in fact, the budget for this school year will not be finalized until next month. Why? The district needs to wait to calculate the number of students for this school year, which is done on the 3rd friday of the school year. This number is used to calculate the amount of state funding the district will receive and is not ready until next month. Also, the School Board uses the final budget to vote on the property tax levy to pay the property tax portion of the budget for this school year.
There’s something else that happens between the spring and fall and that is changes in expenses/revenue. In last year’s budget, there was an increase in the budget of nearly $8 million between the spring and fall approval dates (04-05 Budget Comparison file). The district administration said they put the money where it would be needed, and the School Board did not ask any questions about changes to programs and services, staffing, etc. Most of this money is grant money, but how the money is allocated and how this affects services deserves a presentation not simply a one page summary at the department level.
I hope the School Board asks for changes in revenue/expenses since last spring, how this affects staffing and programs, administrative positions. There are two dates in late October to discuss the final budget. So the School Board can “digest” the changed budget information, if any, a presentation at one meeting with a final decision at the next meeting might make sense and provide for public discussion.

Keeping an Eye on our Federal Representatives

I’ve long been a proponent of keeping tabs on our elected representatives. Kristian Knutsen, writing at Isthmus’s Daily Page is doing a fabulous job summarizing our federal representative’s weekly voting record. Knutsen’s latest: Here’s one example (I’d love to know which lobbyist was powerful enough to cause the Senate to vote on horse inspections:

Roll Call 237 – Sep. 20
Ensign Amdt. No. 1753, As Modified; To prohibit the use of appropriated funds to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to inspect horses under certain authority or guidelines.
Feingold: Yea
Kohl: Yea

Keep reading for a look at our Federal representives priorities.

Kozol: Apartheid America

Reader Troy Dassler emails this article by Jonathan Kozol “It seems appropriate that we should all read it on the eve of a day where everyone in the district is in an in-service talking about race”:

“Segregation is not something that happens by chance, like weather conditions,” says Jonathan Kozol. “It is the work of men.” So it is not without irony that it has taken a hurricane — and the excruciating images of stranded black faces, beamed across cable airwaves — for Americans to confront the reality that vast numbers of their fellow citizens live in segregated ghettos and suffer from abject poverty. But for Kozol, who has built his career on exposing the race- and class-based injustices endemic to the United States’ educational system, the knowledge that we live in a deeply divided society has long been a foregone — if heartbreaking — conclusion.

Abigail Thernstrom says Kozol’s analysis is “worthy of a third grader“.

Harlem School Uses Regionally Grown Food

Reader Barb Williams forwarded this article by Kim Severson:

But perhaps no school is taking a more wide-ranging approach in a more hard-pressed area than the Promise Academy, a charter school at 125th Street and Madison Avenue where food is as important as homework. Last year, officials took control of the students’ diets, dictating a regimen of unprocessed, regionally grown food both at school and, as much as possible, at home.
Experts see the program as a Petri dish in which the effects of good food and exercise on students’ health and school performance can be measured and, perhaps, eventually replicated.

Defense of the Status Quo

I agree wholeheartedly with Johnny Winston’s comments that were reported in the Isthmus article on the upcoming board evaluation of the performance of Superintendent Rainwater. The article by Jason Shepard says:

Winston . . . cites Rainwater’s reluctance to take risks to solve educational problems: “If we have an issue related to student achievement, I’d like the superintendent to say, ‘You know what? It’s not working right now, and I’d like us to try something different.’ I’d like Art to lead the charge on that.” Winston would also like Rainwater to “be more critical of the organization” as a means of self-improvement.


Men in Higher Education: Missing in Action?

USA Today:

Currently, 135 women receive bachelor’s degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.
This is ominous for every parent with a male child. The decline in college attendance means many will needlessly miss out on success in life. The loss of educated workers also means the country will be less able to compete economically. The social implications — women having a hard time finding equally educated mates — are already beginning to play out.

Secrets of Success: America’s system of higher education is the best in the world. That is because there is no system

The Economist via Tom Barnett:

Wooldridge says three reasons account for this: 1) the Fed plays a limited role, unlike in a France or Germany; 2) schools compete for everything, including students and teachers; and 3) our universities are anything but ivory towers, instead being quite focused on practical stuff (Great line: “Bertrand Russell once expressed astonishment at the worldly concerns he encountered at the University of Wisconsin: ‘When any farmer’s turnip go wrong, they send a professor to investigate the failure scientifically,'” So true, as anyone who’s grown up in Wisconsin farmland can attest.)
Two interesting data points: listing of top global universities features 1 from Japan, two from UK and 17 from U.S. Wisconsin, my alma mater is 18 (ahead of Michigan!) and Harvard is number 1.
Also interesting: Of the students who travel abroad, 30 percent come to America. Britain is next at 12%, then Germany, then Australia, then France and Japan. After Australia it’s all single digits.
I guess America isn’t exactly out of the source code business, at least in the most important software package known to man.


Keys Retires

School Board member Keys will retire next year
Bill Keys, whose time on the Madison School Board has been marked by controversies ranging from whether students should recite the Pledge of Allegiance to whether taxpayers should shell out more money to maintain what Keys believes is one of the top five school districts in the nation, will step down next year after two terms.
Full story.

Parents at Hamilton Heard that Students Cannot Perform Basic Math Calculations

Last night was parent night at the MMSD middle schools. My daughter is in 8th grade at Hamilton Middle School, so I spent the evening going to her different classes to learn about what the syllabus was for each of her five academic classes – algebra I accelerated, english, history, Spanish and science. She also takes music theater, physical education and family and consumer education.
All was going well – lots of emphasis on content and organization. Then I got to her Algebra I class, which is also her homeroom. Her teacher said he had good news and bad news. Bad news in the third week of classes? Yes. He gave all his 8th grade algebra classes a pre-test that was an assessment of basic math calculations – percentages, fractions, decimals, etc. The average score – 40%!
How could this be one parent queried the teacher. Her child had gotten As last year in math class. His answer: children are lacking facility with the basic math skills necessary to be successful in algebra. Students did not know these basic skills and could not calculate answers without using a calculator.
If you don’t know basic math facts and know them well by the time you begin algebra I, a student will stuggle to be a successful learner in algebra and more advanced math classes. You have to have the basics down. The teacher recommended the book “Algebra To Go” as a review text.

Hamilton Middle School – Two Years of Foreign Language Taught Daily, 7th Grade Algebra I Accelerated and 8th Grade Geometry, Children Select Music Option (Not a Pull out Curriculum)

Hamilton Middle School offers five academic classes per day in 7th and 8th grades. Hamilton offers its students choices in math, foreign language and music. What do other MMSD and Dane County middle schools offer children? I’d be interested in seeing posts with this information.
Hamilton MS Foreign Language:
In 7th and 8th grade, children choose either French or Spanish. Classes meet every day all year for two years.
Hamilton Middle School Math
Connected math is taught at this school. However, there are accelerated math class choices for students. Algebra 1 accelerated is offered to 8th grade students (based upon teacher recommendation, student interest). There are a number of classes of 8th grade Algebra 1 accelerated. Children completing this course in 8th grade successfully are ready for Geometry or Algebra II in 9th grade at West High School.
There is also one 7th grade class of Algebra I accelerated and one 8th grade class of geometry.
Hamilton Music
All children in grades 6, 7, 8 are required to take a music class – options offered are general music, chorus, band and orchestra. Also, in 8th grade music theater is offered. The schedule for all three years is an A/B schedule with physical education. Children have music three times one week and two times in the next week for an average of 125 minutes per week. The MMSD School Board approved music education curriculum calls for 200 minutes of music education per week (50 minutes per day).

My 7th Grader’s Lost Year at Sherman Middle School?

On Monday, August 29, Kate McWhirter, Kari Douglas, Helen Fitzgerald and I met at Sherman Middle School with Ann Yehle, Principal at Sherman, Barb Brodhagen, Learning Coordinator at Sherman, Maria Brown, Spanish Teacher at Sherman, and Pam Nash, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
Foreign Language Issues

At this meeting, where we were pressed for time, Maria spoke about the foreign language classes for 6th, 7th and 8th grade. In past years, 6th grade students received 4 1/2 weeks of French and 4 1/2 weeks of Spanish. This year they will be receiving 9 weeks of each class (A/B schedule). In seventh grade the students only receive one semester of class. This is due to the block theory that they are trying to implement at Sherman. The Foreign Language teachers prefer this type of schedule because they have more consistancy with the students for a greater amount of time. Meeting every day the pronunciation of words would improve vs. every other day with more students. Working with a student everyday helps the teacher becomes more familiar with the student. Unfortunately, for those students who have it first semester, they will receive no foreign language again until 8th grade. That year, those students will take foreign language all year, every other day. All Sherman students are required to take a foreign language.


We spent most of the time discussing foreign language so we didn’t get a chance to go into an in-depth discussion of other areas that we’re concerned with. One of course, is Algebra. More information will be available tomorrow, and I’ll update you as to what was decided. But just to keep you up to date on the situation, only 5 students “qualified” to participate in Algebra. After a letter was sent out from Superintendent Art Rainwater’s office, 48 students are now opting for the Algebra class, with one teacher. This will change asap. However, students now can choose to participate in algebra, which conflicts with Sherman Principal Ann Yehle’s plan for heterogenous classes.


Gangs and School Violence Forum Notes

This evening’s Gangs and School Violence Forum was quite interesting. Rafael organized an excellent panel. We’ll post a link to video and audio files when they are complete. Following are links to local articles and commentary on this event:

  • Cristina Daglas:

    Yudice said there has been a “huge development in the area of Latino gangs” in Madison specifically, and Blue noted an increase in girls in gangs.
    “We have seen a great surge in activity,” Yudice said.
    All of the panelists offered ideas to help reduce the problem in Madison’s high schools, including limiting off-campus privileges and continuing consistent enforcement against gang colors and clothing in schools.
    “It’s really easy to slip out a door,” said Madison Memorial High School Principal Bruce Dahmen. “It’s important that we have high expectations for all the children.”

  • Reader Jared Lewis emailed this:

    If you need any assistance regarding information about gangs in Madison or resources for schools to tackle the gang problem, feel free to contact me or visit my website at
    I am a former California police officer and a nationally recognized gang expert. I now reside in Jefferson County and continue to teach law enforcement officers, educators and social service workers about dealing with gang problems nationwide.

  • Natalie Swaby

    Students and parents listened during a Wednesday night meeting and took notes, a move in the right direction according to Officer Moore.
    “Last year they were telling me there was no gang issue in or around any of our schools, I was told that by the administration here,” he says. “So this is something that is really great for me that we are finally acknowledging that we do have gang issues.”
    There are resources for at risk youth in the Madison area, but many on the panel stressed that a unified strategic plan is needed.

    Officer Moore also strongly suggested that the High Schools eliminate their open campus policy.

  • Sandy Cullen:

    Blue and other panelists attributed the increase in gang activity to a growing number of students who feel a disconnection with their school and community, and with adults who care about them.
    “We’re getting a wake-up call that says certain parts of our community are not healthy,” Blue said.

Forum video and audio archive

Superintendent Dismisses Call for Transparent Budget

I have been trying for weeks to get a handle on how much the MMSD spends on various programs. As I’ve exchanged e-mails with Roger Price and Superintendent Rainwater, it has become clear that the MMSD cannot (or will not) provide figures on how much was budgeted for any particular program in the previous year, how much was spent in the previous year, and how much was budgeted for the current year.
Calculating and providing those three sums creates a “transparent” budget, i.e., a budget that allows the average citizen to see where the money came from and where it went.


Authors Challenge Schools to Challenge Students

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 – Washington Post
Two new books on how to teach students of divergent abilities seem at first to have been written on different planets.
But Deborah L. Ruf’s “Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind” and a new edition of Jeannie Oakes’s “Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality” eventually reveal a similar frustration. Both want children to be given more individual attention and more of an academic challenge than they are getting in most schools.


Some Madison School District Buses Operated Without Insurance

Steven Elbow:

A bus service that contracts with the Madison Metropolitan School District is back in business after transporting students without having insurance.
One former employee said Mr. Mom’s Transport was operating without insurance for a month and a half.
“I think things are back to normal,” said school district spokesman Ken Syke.

Vernice Jones Blogs on Homeschooling Her Child

Vernice Jones, a New York Black Mother is writing a weblog on homeschooling her child:

I am a Woman of Color trying to homeschool my child of 4 1/2 even though he goes to preschool full-day every day. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t feel I can trust the school system to educate my child. So far as I’m concerned, I am a homeschooling mother of one. Here’s to a day in my life.

via Joanne.

Burmaster’s Education Priorities

WisPolitics [PDF]:

The two-day event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union will include sessions Wednesday on the future of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) at 10:30 a.m., high school redesign at 11:20a.m., and the “New 3 R’s for the UW-Madison School of Education” at 1:15 p.m. Sectionals that begin at 2:30 p.m. will include changes in special education law, open enrollment, rural schools and communities, NCLB in Wisconsin, and virtual education. Dennis Winters, vice president and director of research for NorthStar Economics Inc. of Madison, will present research on the economic impact of 4-year-old kindergarten (4K) at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. (Media have been invited to this briefing.)

Members of West/Memorial Task Force

At large representatives representing an ethnic group who reside within the attendance areas:
Prasanna Raman
Brenda Gonzalez
Community member without children in the district:
Tim Otis
Student Liaison to the Board of Education:
Connor Gants
School & Representative
Chavez – Rich Rubasch – Jennifer Sheridan (Alternative)
Crestwood – Marisue Horton – Mary Kay Battaglia (Alt.)
Falk – Dr. Matthew Raw – Karl Woodruff (Alt.)
Huegel – Laura Lenzen (Alt.)
Muir – Ann and Brett Larget
Orchard Ridge
Stephens – Carol Quintana
Jefferson – Wilma Gurl
Spring Harbor – Don Jorgensen
Toki – Sue Mowris
Memorial – Mary/Scott Whitcomb – Mary Fahey (Alt.)
Franklin/Randall – Michael Maguire
Leopold – Rusty Shoemaker-Allen
Lincoln – Lori Mann Carey
Midvale – Jerry Eykholt – Brian Tennant (Alt.)
Shorewood – Janice Ferguson – Michelle Vassallo (Alt.)
Thoreau – Gina Hodgson – Erin Weiss (Alt.)
Van Hise – Wendy Cooper – Jim Bauman (Alt.)
Cherokee – Arlene Silveira – Marcia Bastian (Alt.)
Hamilton – Mark Kaiser – Alan Kim (Alt.)
Wright – Fern Murdoch – Sandra Willis-Smith (Alt.)
West – Michelle Reynolds
Shabazz – Paula Volpiansky – Stacy Sandler (Alt.)
Affiliated Alt


Members of the East Task Force

At large representatives representing an ethnic group who reside within the attendance areas:
James Howard
Ramona Natora

Community member without children in the district:

Pat Mooney
One East High School student:
Rebecca Berkenstadt
School & Representative
Emerson – Linda Galang – Michelle Rawlings (Alternate)
Gompers – Amy Riedemann
Lake View
Lapham – Mike Wygocki – Chris Oddo (Alt.)
Lindbergh – Tonja Prodehl
Lowell – Maria Doyle
Marquette – Laura Chastain – Kimberly Neuschel (Alt.)
Mendota – Michelle Brokaw – Mike McCabe (Alt.)
Sandburg – Lisa Kind
Black Hawk – Jill Jokela
O’Keeffe – David Wallner – Josh Day (Alt.)
Sherman – Vicky Nelson – Angela Nash (Alt.)
East – Brenda Robinson
Shabazz – Kim and Richard Karlin-Kamin


Wes Daily on the Gang Phenomenon

Wes Daily emailed a few comments on Gangs:

Gangs are not a new phenomenon in the United States and were originally formed as social clubs and a means of self-protection. Today, gangs have evolved into violent predators focused on obtaining money and power. According to the National Drug intelligence Center (NDIC), there are at least 21,500 gangs and more than 731,500 active gang members in the United States. NDIC defines a street gang as an ongoing group, club, organization, or association of five or more persons that has as one of its primary purposes the commission of one or more criminal offenses. Street gangs are no longer just an urban problem as they continue to seek new drug markets in suburban and rural areas. Gangs and their members can be identified by various methods including self admission, tattoos, possession of gang paraphernalia, information from other agencies, and photographs. Initiations vary from gang to gang and set to set. Most common inductions required for membership include the commission of a crime such as armed robbery, assault, rape, drive-by shootings, and murder. Other known initiations entail a “beat-in” or “jump-in,” in which the inductee must endure a severe beating by gang members, or a “sex-in” in which a female member must have sexual intercourse with multiple gang members.
The Crips originated in 1969 in Los Angeles, California from a youth gang known as the Baby Avenues, which then became known as the Avenue Cribs. In the early 1970s, the Avenue Cribs changed their name to the “Crips.” This gang was originally an African American male gang, but it now accepts Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian males and females to bolster their membership. The Crips wear blue and gray or purple and orange clothing. Members wear British Knight or Adidas sneakers. This changes in different communities throughout the nation. To the Crips, Adidas stands for “All day I destroy a slob,” and BK stands for “Blood Killer,” which are derogatory slangs towards their rivals the Bloods. NDIC estimates national membership at 30,000 to 35,000. Theses figures are based on national reporting, which is consistently low due to denial.

Rafael Gomez is leading a Forum this Wednesday (9.21.2005) @ 7:00p.m. on Gangs and School Violence at the Doyle Administration Building. Learn more.

Growing Green, High Performance Charter Schools

Senn Brown forwarded these links and information:

Eco-charter schools with environment-focused and project-based programs are springing up throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states. Environment and sustainability are the integrating qualities of learning in “green,” high-performance charter schools. See website links (below) to several “green” charter schools.
Earlier this summer, a group from Wisconsin and Minnesota’s green/environmental focused charter schools gathered at Beaver Creek Nature Reserve, site of the new Wildlands Charter School (see link below), for a day-long “Green” High-Performance Charter Schools Conference. The gathering provided an opportunity for charter school, higher education and state-level folks to share information on green/environmentally focused programs, practices, experiences and “green” school design principles. The group agreed to establish a steering committee to develop plans for fostering the creation of environmental-focused charter schools, sharing effective practices, networking and describing design principles for all environmentally friendly charter schools. The WCSA and Minnesota Association of Charter Schools are assisting the steering committee to coordinate the green/environmental charter schools initiative.

School-Funding Update from WAES (WI Alliance for Excellent Schools)

Referendum soundly defeated in Phillips School District
Greendale voters support $14 million tax levy
North Carolina will use lottery proceeds for schools
Slot machine revenue not best bet for public schools
What’s new in the anti-TABOR toolbox?
School-funding reform calendar
The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.


Parents Under Siege

Martha Foley:

What IS it about some kids? Why does ONE teenager run into trouble time after time, when his or her siblings don’t? Why do kids make bad choices, just when parents think they’re doing the best they can to love, support, and encourage them? From kindergarten to college, a new school year brings kids new challenges, renewed problems. From bullying to binge-drinking. Dr. James Garbarino is recognized as a leading authority on child development and youth violence. His books include “Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them”. And, “Parents Under Siege: Why You Are the Solution, Not the Problem in Your Chld’s Life”. He speaks to St. Lawrence University classes today, and in a public presentation in the Canton Central School auditorium tonight at 7.

A Few Task Force Names – Updated

Carol Carstensen provided updated information on the people selected by the Board of Education to serve on the attendance task forces:

Prasanna Raman (nominated by Ruth Robarts to fill a position as an Asian member of the task force)
Tim Otis (nominated by Bill Keys to fill a position as a resident with no children in the district)
Brenda Gonzalez (nominated by Juan Lopez to fill a position as an Hispanic/Latino member of the task force)
Charlie Daniel (to fill a positon as an African American member of the task force)
James Howard (nominated by Lawrie Kobza to fill a position as an African American member of the task force)
Pat Mooney (nominated by Carol Carstensen to fill a position as a resident without children in the district)
Ramon Natera (nominated by Juan Lopez to fill a position as an Hispanic/Latino member of the task force)
– A represenative of the Asian community has notyet been named

Carol Carstensen says that the district may soon release the names of the members selected by the principals and PTOs.

The Gang Scene in Madison

Doug Erickson takes a useful look around Madison’s gang scene, including the recent events in Oregon. Erickson also mentions this Wednesday’s SIS supported event, lead by Rafael Gomez on Gangs and School Violence (9.21 @ 7:00p.m.):

“It sets a watershed mark for the number of individuals involved in one event,” said Stephen Blue, who has studied local gangs since 1986 and is delinquency services manager for the Dane County Department of Human Services.
Blue is among panelists scheduled to discuss gangs and school violence Wednesday at the Doyle Administration Building of the Madison School District. The event is sponsored by, a Web site devoted to school issues.
Rafael Gomez, a district parent who helped organize the forum and will be its moderator, said the topic was chosen before the Oregon shootings.
“One of the questions we will be asking the panel is how the whole issue of gangs in our schools has changed in the last 10 years,” he said. “I think that’s a good way to frame the situation in Oregon.”

Are E-Books the Future?

Joshua Fruhlinger:

I hate to break it to you, though, but it looks like e-books in their current form aren’t going to break out of their early adopter ghetto any time soon. Certainly books stored in electronic form have flourished in a number of niche markets — reference books, in particular, are becoming more and more prevalent as electronic form rather than paper (see Resources for more on this and other wacky links). But when it comes to the books that make up the bulk of our reading lives, the vast majority of us are still reading words printed with ink on paper bound with glue and string.

I think the future, (or is it present?) of online learning is something between blogs, heymath, edhelper and wikipedia with interesting tools like RSS thrown in.

Math Curriculum: Textbook Photos

A year’s worth of Connected Math textbooks and teacher guides are on the left while the equivalent Singapore Math texts are on the right.

Friedman’s latest ,where he demonstrates how other countries are “eating our kid’s lunch in math” is well worth reading, as are these math posts. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has much more to say on K-12 math curriculum.

A few observations from a layperson who couldn’t be farther from a math expert’s perspective on this (in other words, I’m not a math expert):

  • Children must be able to read effectively to use the voluminous Connected Math curriculum,
  • The Connected Math curriculum has very extensive teacher instructions, while the Singapore curriculum is rather thin in this area. Does it follow that teachers using Singapore Math have far more freedom with respect to their instruction methods, or is the intention to make sure that teachers teach Connected Math in a scripted way?
  • The Connected Math texts require more dead trees and I assume cost more than the Singapore texts directly and indirectly (transportation, packaging and the overhead of dealing with more pieces)
  • The voluminous Connected Math texts have far more opportunities for errors, simply based on the amount of text and illustrations included in the books.
  • Madison Country Day School uses Singapore Math.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on Connected Math and Singapore Math around the internet. Maybe it’s time to follow the people (from India, China and Great Britain) and virtualize this while eliminating the textbooks?

Post your comments below.

Still Eating Our Lunch

Tom Friedman writes “…math and science are the keys to innovation and power in today’s world, and American parents had better understand that the people who are eating their kids’ lunch in math are not resting on their laurels.” His opinion piece in the New York Times writes more about HeyMath! and its use in Singapore and worldwide.

The Changing Value of Shakespeare

Tyler Cowen takes a quick look at William St. Clair’s new book: The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. This book, so interesting on many levels looks at:

During the four centuries when printed paper was the only means by which texts could be carried across time and distance, everyone engaged in politics, education, religion, and literature believed that reading helped to shape the minds, opinions, attitudes, and ultimately the actions, of readers. William St Clair investigates how the national culture can be understood through a quantitative study of the books that were actually read. Centred on the romantic period in the English-speaking world, but ranging across the whole print era, it reaches startling conclusions about the forces that determined how ideas were carried, through print, into wider society. St Clair provides an in-depth investigation of information, made available here for the first time, on prices, print runs, intellectual property, and readerships gathered from over fifty publishing and printing archives. He offers a picture of the past very different from those presented by traditional approaches. Indispensable to students, English literature, book history, and the history of ideas, the study’s conclusions and explanatory models are highly relevant to the issues we face in the age of the internet.

  • The first study of actual reading using quantification and economic analysis
  • Sheds new light on aspects of reading and its effect on the nation
  • An indispensable resource for scholars working on literature, reading, and the history of publishing and printing

Hey Math E-Learning

HeyMath! is

an E-learning system that supports the work of teachers in teaching and assessment, whilst helping students build a strong foundation in Math and become independent learners.

IBM To Encourage Employees to be Teachers

Brian Bergstein:

International Business Machines Corp., worried the United States is losing its competitive edge, will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.
The new program, being announced Friday in concert with city and state education officials, reflects tech industry fears that U.S. students are falling behind peers from Bangalore to Beijing in the sciences.
Up to 100 IBM employees will be eligible for the program in its trial phase. Eventually, Big Blue hopes many more of its tech savvy employees – and those in other companies – will follow suit.

The Governance Divide: Improving College Readiness and Success

The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success authored by The Institute for Educational Leadership, The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, The Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research. Foreword, Executive Summary, Full Report (345K PDF):

The report also offers recommendations to help states transform ad hoc approaches into sustained action and institutionalized, long-term K-16 reforms. Every state needs to increase the percentage of students who complete high school and finish some form of postsecondary education; existing governance structures and policies cannot meet this overwhelming need. For most states, these structures and policies must be revised in significant ways.
Currently, K-12 and postsecondary education exist in separate worlds in the United States. Policies for each system of education are typically created in isolation from each other-even though, in contrast to the past, most students eventually move from one system to the other. Students in K-12 rarely know what to expect when they enter college, nor do they have a clear sense of how to prepare for that next step. Particularly now, in the 21st century, when more students must complete some postsecondary education to have an economically secure life, the need for improved transitions from high school to college is urgent. This need for some postsecondary education extends beyond individual aspirations. In this global economy, businesses and communities-and our nation as a whole-must have residents who have achieved educational success beyond high school.

Phoebe Randall has more, including comments from the Wisconsin DPI:

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction acknowledges there is a problem and said the department is working to improve the situation with new programs.
“In Wisconsin, there is a tremendous amount of coordination to ensure that students are prepared for college,” DPI Communications Officer Joe Donovan said.
This coordination comes in the form of a program called PK16, which stands for pre-kindergarten through grade 16. One of the program’s goals is to focus on keeping students motivated and challenged during the transition from their senior year of high school to college.

Agenda for East Task Force

6:30 p.m. Special Meeting of the Madison School Board and the East
Attendance Area Demographics and Long Range Facility Needs Task Force
Sherman Middle School
Library Media Center
1610 Ruskin Street
Madison, WI


Agenda for West/Memorial Task Force

6:30 p.m. Special Meeting of the Madison School Board and the Memorial and West Attendance Areas Demographics and Long Range Facility Needs Task Force
Toki Middle School
Library Media Center
5606 Russett Road
Madison, WI 53711


Maryland’s Education Reform Guidelines

Daniel de Vise:

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele released his blueprint for education reform yesterday, a series of 30 recommendations that call for schools to be graded and teachers to be paid for performance.
Members of the 30-person Governor’s Commission on Quality Education in Maryland recommended efforts to promote charter schools but rejected school vouchers, a far more divisive topic

Full Report (PDF)

California Bans Junk Food in Schools


“California is facing an obesity epidemic,” Mr Schwarzenegger said. “Today we are taking some first steps in creating a healthy future for California.”
Under the new rules, pizza, burritos, pasta and sandwiches must contain no more than four grams of fat for every 100 calories, with a total of no more than 400 calories.
From 2007, students will only be allowed to buy water, milk and some fruit and sports drinks that contain a controlled amount of sweeteners.
It is thought that the move could cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollar in lost income, as they receive money from companies in return for allowing them to sell their products in schools.

Is the U.S. Losing out on Science and Math Education?

The OECD released their “Education at a Glance – 2005 Report” Daniel Drezner summarizes his take on the US Performance:

1) In science and math, the U.S. is ahead of only the really poor OECD countries — Turkey, Mexico, etc. So yes, there is reason to worry.
2) The poor performance is not because of a downward trend — in fact, if you look at chart A7.1 (“Differences in mean performance of eighth-grade students from 1995 to 2003”), you discover an interesting fact: the United States showed the greatest improvement in science and math scores of the sample — including Korea.
3) The poor performance isn’t because of a dearth of funds — table B1.1 shows that, Switzerland excepted, the United States spends the most amount of money per student in the OECD. You get a similar result if the metric is education spending as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, the OECD comments:

Lower expenditure cannot automatically be equated with a lower quality of educational services. Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and New-Zealand, which have moderate expenditure on education per student at the primary and lower secondary levels, are among the OECD countries with the highest levels of performance by 15-year-old students in mathematics.

Presentation on Gangs & School Violence

Gangs and School Violence Presentation
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:00p.m. to 8:00p.m.
Organized by volunteers from
McDaniels Auditorium
Doyle Administration Building
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703 Directions
Discussion Topics:
1) Has the gang issue changed over the past 10 years?
2) What have we learned from our initiatives?
3) What partnerships are available to keep gangs away from schools?
4) What procedures are available to individual schools to keep gangs away from schools?
Ed Holmes, Principal of Madison West High School
Mike Meissen, Principal of LaFollette High School
Robert Growney, Principal of Edgewood High School
Lt. Luis Yudice, Office of Justice Assistance
Stephen Blue, MSW Office Manager of Delinquent Services
Hector Alvarez, Centro Hispano
Bruce Dahmen, Principal – Madison Memorial High School
Lester Moore, City of Madison Police Department
For more information, please contact
Rafael Gomez:
Joan Knoebel:
Larry Winkler:
This event will be recorded and published on

Family Dinner Linked to Better Grades

ABC News:

The survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize.
It found teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.
“At a time when kids are under a lot of stress for a lot of different reasons, having that regular meal time that they can count on, that their parents are there for support — that can be very helpful,” said David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Is the Cluetrain Running Over Government?

Sophos writing at IT Toolbox:

Government is still in the old broadcast mode of press conferences and press releases and talking at you rather than with you. Government only seems to have time to converse with lobby groups, mass media reporters and interests that are going to make them or their friends money. Money from the government.
The conversations are growing – mass media is at a loss to understand how to deal with or contend with the number of blogs, cross-linking of blogs and the sheer volume of people getting involved in the conversation. It is no holds barred and far more interesting than the scripted Q&A being spouted from press conferences. Mass media is so flabbergasted, that they have resorted to reading blogs on their broadcasts! How crazy is that – broadcasting elements of the conversations from the blogosphere on TV. Media is stunned. The administration is stunned. It is only going to get worse for all of them.

No Names Yet of Task Force Members

For more than a week, I’ve been trying to get the names of the people appointed to the East and West/Memorial task forces on attendance and facilities.
I have the following partial list of the names of people who were nominated by board members and the board member who nominated each.


Board Subcommittee on Advertising

I picked up the message below from a local listserve.

Dear Members of the School Board:
I am asking you to recommend interested persons for the Finance and Operations Subcommittee on Advertising. Please send Barb Lahman, name(s), contact information and a brief bio. Meetings will be once a month and probably during the day. I’m asking for people who have good ideas, “think outside the box”, in business, marketing or related fields or anyone who might make a positive contribution to the committee.
Again, this committee is not going “debate” the idea or philosophy of advertising but hopefully give a wide range of options to the board. It would be very helpful if you made contact with the person that you nominate and ask them if their interested in serving. Please send possible names by Friday September 16th. Please contact me if you have questions. Thank you.

McDonald’s Sponsors an Elementary Phy Ed Program in 31,000 Schools


“McDonald’s Passport to Play” will launch in 31,000 schools this fall, reaching an expected 7 million children in grades three through five, the company said.
The move is part of McDonald’s (Research) so-called “Balanced Lifestyles” initiative, an aggressive effort to promote physical activity and nutrition and deflect harmful claims that its food is unhealthy and fattening.

Teaching Math

Several AFT American Educator articles on Teaching Mathematics:

  • Ron Aharoni: Helping Children Learn Mathematics

    A professional mathematician shares his insights about effective instructional practice, how children learn, the importance of a coherent, systematic curriculum—and mathematics—after taking up the challenge of teaching in an Israeli elementary school.

  • Knowing Mathematics for Teaching:

    There is general agreement that teachers’ knowledge of the mathematical content to be taught is the cornerstone of effective mathematics instruction. But the actual extent and nature of the mathematical knowledge teachers need remains a matter of controversy. A new program of research into what it means to know mathematics for teaching—and how that knowledge relates to student achievement—may help provide some answers.

Superintendent’s Message

Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater is beginning to write a series of monthly articles which he will use as his Superintendent’s Report. Listen to this month’s report by watching this 5 minute video clip. I looked around the District’s site and did not immediately see a text version of this report. UPDATE: The message was circulated via email Tuesday morning, 9/13/2005. Click the link below to read a text version:


Clarification of Tonight’s Special Board Meeting Regarding the Equity Policy

I wanted to clarify (via the Board President) the reason for the equity policy meeting tonight. If you remember last winter a majority of the Board indicated it wanted to set up a task force to look at the equity policy – but did not give any further directions. Tonight’s meeting is to bringing the issue back to the Board for further discussion and to get more direction from the members about a possible composition and charge to a task force. In President’s defense, she gave her commitment to the community that the board would have a citizen group work on this issue and she’s following through.


School-funding update

Two gubernatorial candidates endorse school-funding reform
Check out the school-funding reform calendar
What’s new in the anti-TABOR toolbox?
School-funding reform calendar
The Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) is a statewide network of educators, school board members, parents, community leaders, and researchers. Its Wisconsin Adequacy Plan — a proposal for school-finance reform — is the result of research into the cost of educating children to meet state proficiency standards.


Equity Policy:  Discussion Not Voting

The issue of the district’s equity policy is on the agenda for this evening’s discussion to get more direction from the Board.  The last time the Board looked at this issue it indicated the need to establish a task force but did not specify membership, charge or process.  When I described my goals as President (and during the spring campaign) I specifically said I would follow through with creating a task force to look at the equity policy.  This is on a Special Board meeting because it is being brought to the Board for discussion not action.   I am sorry that there seems to be some confusion about this.

Questions Regarding Tonight’s Equity Vote

In addition to Ruth’s blog, I would add the question of why this is being addressed in a “special” board meeting and not the regular meeting. (Sorry – it isn’t clear from the message that the district sent on Friday, and the link to the regular board agenda is not working). And, if there are documents available related to the vote, why they are not publicly available in a timely fashion.
To be honest, I missed the impact of the message that arrived Friday morning via e-mail, so thanks to Ruth for flaggin it:
5:00 p.m. Human Resources Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated February 7, 2005 and March 14, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Proposed Leave of Absence Policy for Administrators
5. Proposed Leave of Absence Agreement for Administrators
6. Other Business
There is no other business.
7. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
6:00 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Approval of Minutes dated August 29, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Equity Resource Formula
5. Board Policy 9001 – Equity
6. Proposed Equity Policy
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:15 p.m. Regular Board of Education Meeting
Agenda of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
[NOTE: this link does not work]
Agenda may be picked up during business hours at the MMSD Public
Information Office, Room 100, Doyle Administration Bldg., 545 West Dayton
Street, Madison, WI 53703
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison WI 53703

UW Joins Regional Tuition Discount Program


Starting next fall, Wisconsin residents can apply for discount tuition at 130 colleges in six Midwestern states under a plan approved by University of Wisconsin System regents.
In exchange, residents from those states could pay reduced rates at several schools in the UW System – but not the flagship UW-Madison campus. The regents voted Friday to join the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, a coalition of regional colleges and universities.

Madison School Board Votes on Equity Policy On September 12: what’s at stake? what’s the rush?

On Monday, September 12, the Madison Board of Education will vote on proposed revisions to the district’s Equity Resource Policy. The revisions gut the current policy and replace it with an already existing formula for allocating staff to schools based on socioeconomic factors. The meeting is a Special Board meeting called by President Carol Carstensen. At the meeting administrators will recommend this change and the full Board will vote on the recommendation. Not much notice to the public, not much opportunity to hear public opinion and analysis, no analysis by any Board committee. Only very savvy people who closely watch the Board agendas will know that this vote is coming.

What’s at stake?


Milwaukee Loses Big Under Open Enrollment

Tom Kertscher:

During the first six years of the program, the analysis found, 15 suburban districts each earned more than $1 million in extra state aid because they gained more students than they lost through open enrollment transfers.
MPS, meanwhile, lost more than $32 million.
Four other districts – Racine Unified, Waukesha, Oconomowoc and Kewaskum – each lost more than $1 million.

Durbin & Feingold: Ease NCLB Standards Due To Katrina


Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), are calling on the administration to help schools across the nation that are taking in the thousands of students displaced by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina by increasing funding to those schools while relaxing the accountability standards mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

More money for less? More from Eduwonk.

More: It’s Not Too Early to Run for the Madison School Board

Kristian Knutsen nicely summarizes the upcoming spring 2006 Madison School Board election politics and mentions that the election will likely include a non-binding referendum to overturn the tavern smoking ban (Isthmus’ The Daily Page):

There is ongoing speculation as to whether either incumbent will run for another term. Whether or not they do, the “anti-status quo” group of school board activists that support Robarts, helped boost Kobza to victory in April, and were mostly in opposition to the defeated May referendum questions, is gearing up for the next round, an election that could advance them to a majority position.

More here.

Author & Advocate for Gifted Education to Visit Madison

Jan Davidson, co-author of “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds” will be speaking in Madison on Tuesday, October 11, 2005 at 7:30 p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium of the MMSD Doyle Administration Building.
Jan and her husband Bob founded the Davidson Institute for Talent Development – a nonprofit operating foundation whose mission is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference. Prior to this, they were the heads of the educational software publishing firm, Davidson & Associates, Inc. which produced a large number of popular educational software titles including the popular Math Blaster™ and Reading Blaster™ series.
Jan Davidson’s visit to Madison is being co-ordinated by the Madison TAG Parents Group and by the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talent Youth (WCATY).

Throwing out the baby with the bath water

The posting below, by Lloyd Bond, senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) looks at the importance of the evolution, as opposed to revolution, of ideas in teaching and learning.
Bond points out that research shows that cognitive development occurs in stages. Certain fundamentals or skills must be mastered before higher level abilities can develop. In the continuing debate on how best to teach subjects like reading and math, extremists on both sides of the debate overlook the role that the other approach needs to play in helping students develop the appropriate skill set.
It is #18 in the monthly series called Carnegie Foundation Perspectives produced by the CFAT (more…)

Cultural Integration Better Environment for Children’s Education

In his September 8, 2005, op-ed piece in the New York Times, Katrina’s Silver Lining, conservative columnist David Brooks writes that rebuilding New Orleans presents a clean slate, an opportunity to culturally integrate the city rather than have large pockets of poverty – like the Gautreaux program:
“The most famous example of cultural integration is the Gautreaux program, in which poor families from Chicago were given the chance to move into suburban middle-class areas. The adults in these families did only slightly better than the adults left behind, but the children in the relocated families did much better.
These kids suddenly found themselves surrounded by peers who expected to graduate from high school and go to college. After the shock of adapting to the more demanding suburban schools, they were more likely to go to college, too.”
Do Madison’s schools present an environment of high expectations for all our children? Will this continue over time? Or, will suburban schools become a magnet for parents in this area? I’d be interested in people’s thoughts via the blog.

PA Schools Mandate Body Mass Calculations

Martha Raffaele:

As they wait for their children’s first report card to come home this year, elementary-school parents across Pennsylvania also can expect to receive a separate report on a key indicator of their children’s health.
In an effort to combat childhood obesity, the state Health Department is requiring school nurses to compute students’ body-mass index – or height-to-weight ratio – during annual growth screenings, starting this year with children in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Parents will receive letters about the results that will encourage them to share the information with their family physician. The letters will explain whether the BMI is above, below, or within the normal range for the child’s age and gender.

Task Forces To Meet Week of September 19

Carol Carstensen sent me the following about the task forces:

Because not all schools have named representatives yet, the first meetings of the task forces has been moved back a week – Sept. 20 for West/Memorial and Sept. 22 for East.

“Crash” and the MMSD – Race Relations at the Intersection

A few months ago, I saw the movie “Crash” on a recommendation from Barbara Golden, founder and leader of MAFAAC. This movie has an ensemble cast and I highly recommend that you see this movie when it comes out on DVD. The movie talks in depth about race relations, stereotyping and racism.
The subject of race comes up frequently related to the Madison School District. More and more our schools are being asked to address societal issues particularly regarding race. During a Performance and Achievement committee meeting on Monday August 29th, Shwaw Vang, chair of the committee led a very spirited conversation about Hmong student attendance and race relations. This discussion was coupled by presentations from district staff Jeannette Deloya and Diane Crear. Attached are the presentations and statistics that show a series of meetings and plans to address Hmong student performance and that the school district is improving its race relations among its student body.


Candy, Soda, Pizza, Other Junk Food Compete with Nutritious Meals in Most Schools

Libby Quaid:

Candy, soda, pizza and other snacks compete with nutritious meals in nine out of 10 schools, a government survey found.
Already plentiful in high schools, junk food has become more available in middle schools over the past five years, according to the Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
“Parents should know that our schools are now one of the largest sources of unhealthy food for their kids,” Sen. Tom Harkin, who asked for the study, said in an interview.

East & West Task Forces Meet Next Week?

A person who was apparently appointed to one of the task forces to study attenance and facilities on the east and west sides says that the task forces have been scheduled to meet next week.
The MMSD has released no information about the task forces.
Does anyone know what’s going on?

Lee Kuan Yew Interview on the Rise of China & India

Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew speaks with Der Spiegel on Asia’s rise to economic power, China’s ambitions and the West’s chances of staying competitive:

Mr. Lee: Right. In 50 years I see China, Korea and Japan at the high-tech end of the value chain. Look at the numbers and quality of the engineers and scientists they produce and you know that this is where the R&D will be done. The Chinese have a space programme, they’re going to put a man on the Moon and nobody sold them that technology. We have to face that. But you should not be afraid of that. You are leading in many fields which they cannot catch up with for many years, many decades. In pharmaceuticals, I don’t see them catching up with the Germans for a long time.

Tim Berners-Lee: The Net Will Produce More Creative Children


CNN: What will surprise us about the future evolution of the Internet?
BERNERS-LEE: The creativity of our children. In many ways, people growing up with the Web and now the Semantic Web take the power at their fingertips for granted. The people who designed the tools that make the Net run had their own ideas for the future. I look forward to seeing what the next generation does with these tools that we could not have foreseen. …


School has once again successfully lifted off, thanks to a great deal of hard work on the part of many people including teachers, staff and administrators. I thought it would be useful to pass along a few observations:

  • A Madison teacher spent quite a bit of personal time after school last year helping children who were behind in math catch up.
  • My aunt is a Minnesota teacher. During a recent visit to a prospective student’s home:”I got hit on my head with a folder, my camera got taken away, and my shirt got pulled up. The mom just calmly kept talking about school.

Please add your anecdotes in the comments below!

A Model for the School Board to Get Budget Input?

Mayor Dave issued the following message on how he hopes city residents can help shape Madison’s next budget. I hope that the Board of Education uses a similar approach during the district’s budgt process next spring.

Thanks to the combination of state levy limits and higher costs for providing City services (due to factors such as escalating fuel costs),the City of Madison faces a $4 million budget gap for 2006.
Closing this gap will force the City to make a number of tough choices.
As I work on developing my budget proposal, I want to hear from the public about what priorities we should set for scarce City resources.
To help get that input, I am holding a series of interactive “Build
Your Own Budget” forums this month. At these forums, participants will get to put themselves in my shoes, and balance the City budget through their chosen combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.
Background and worksheets will be provided to guide participants
through the budget process and outline various spending and revenue options to choose from. I will use the information gathered at these forums as I craft my executive budget for introduction in October.
The forums are all free and open to the public. The forum schedule is
listed below. I hope that you will take this unique opportunity to make your voice heard on how the City should set its priorities in the year to come.


Back to School, Thinking Globally

New York Times Editorial:

The great achievement of No Child Left Behind is that it has forced the states to focus at last on educational inequality, the nation’s most corrosive social problem. But it has been less successful at getting educators and politicians to see the education problem in a global context, and to understand that this country is rapidly losing ground to the nations we compete with for high-skilled jobs that require a strong basis in math and science.
American taxpayers have heard a fair amount about the fact that their children lag behind the children of Britain, France, Germany and Japan. But American students are also bested by nations like Poland, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Worst of all, they fall further and further behind their peers abroad the longer they stay in school.

Indianapolis School Superintendent: A Change Maker?

Matthew Tully:

“We have to turn things around right away,” he said. “They didn’t bring me in to be safe. They brought me in to be a change maker.”
So he has tossed out troublemaking students and offered ambitious plans for historic schools Crispus Attucks and Shortridge. He’s demanded more from all, from teachers to students to janitors.
White has been the city’s top newsmaker since becoming superintendent of the state’s largest school system July 1. He seems to have commandeered space on the front page.

More on Eugene G. White, Indianapolis’s new Superintendent. Via Eduwonk.

Madison Schools Announcement on Students Displaced by Hurricane Katrina

Madison Metropolitan School District:

Madison school officials on Friday said the district will make every effort to assist families and students displaced by hurricane Katrina by simplifying the enrollment process and getting students immediately into classes.
By Friday, the district had received several calls from individuals in Madison, who have family in the areas affected by the hurricane, inquiring about school possibilities for their relatives. Calls were also received from individuals in relief shelters in the South.
“They are welcome in Madison and we will ensure that families temporarily relocating to Madison will be able to get their children into school immediately,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater.

PowerPoint: Killer App?

Ruth Marcus:

The most disturbing development in the world of PowerPoint is its migration to the schools — like sex and drugs, at earlier and earlier ages. Now we have second-graders being tutored in PowerPoint. No matter that students who compose at the keyboard already spend more energy perfecting their fonts than polishing their sentences — PowerPoint dispenses with the need to write any sentences at all. Perhaps the politicians who are so worked up about the ill effects of violent video games should turn their attention to PowerPoint instead.
In the meantime, Tufte, who’s now doing consulting work for NASA, has a modest proposal for its new administrator: Ban the use of PowerPoint. Sounds good to me. After all, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the perils of PowerPoint.

The Leopold Reality

Leopold Teacher Troy Dassler, via email:

As part of full disclosure, I must admit that one of the two classrooms that were carved out the lunchroom is where I teach our children. So, this story has special significance to me and my students.
Troy Dassler
NBC 15 News:
New School Year, Same Referendum Questions
Overcrowding on First Day
Updated: 6:29 PM Sep 1, 2005
Zac Schultz
Madison: The new third graders at Aldo Leopold Elementary probably did not pay much attention to the school referendum questions last spring.
They don’t know that the voters rejected a plan that would have given them a new school by the time they were in 5th grade. But some of them do understand overcrowding.
“I would say in terms of optimal learning environment Leopold is overcrowded now. We’re using every square inch of Leopold with kids,” says Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater.
“We try to organize to minimize the impact on children,” says Leopold Principal Mary Hyde.


An observation on what makes a good school board member

The first paragraph of the link recommended by Barb Schrank says:

An effective school board plays an important watchdog role in keeping your local school on track, and setting policies that affect your child and your school. The school board sets the vision and goals for the school district, and holds the district accountable for results. One school board member cannot do the job alone. Effective school board members contribute their unique talents while collaborating and working as a team with other board members.

I find the Madison Board of Education and superintendent do well on collaboration, except for attacking Ruth Robarts, but I’d like to see the board improve dramatically on being a watchdog, setting policy, setting the vision and goals for the district, and holding the district accountable for results.

Arts – Ask For More

A Harris Poll released in June 2005 on the attitudes of Americans toward arts education revealed that 93 percent of Americans agree that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education for children. Additionally, 54 percent rated the importance of arts education a “ten” on a scale of one to ten.

What Makes a Great School Board Member?

Great Schools a non-profit California organization writes about what it means to be a great school board member.
A North Carolina school board looked out 10 years asking where they wanted to be and set annual goals accordingly: “Griffin [a school board member in a North Carolina school district] began his first term on the board by asking the tough question: “Where do we want our schools to be in 2010 and how will we know that we have gotten there?” He then worked with his board and superintendent to set the vision and goals for their district. When a new superintendent was hired, he insisted that the adopted school district goals be written into his contract, and that the superintendent be evaluated annually based on the goals.”

MMSD adds 2 ED classrooms at Marquette

I exchanged e-mails with Superintendent Rainwater about two new classrooms at Marquette. I’ll simply post the e-mails at this time and late add commentary, not on the program per se, but the budget process (or lack thereof) that created and funded it.

The rumor mill says that the administration moved the existing NEON program to Marquette or created a new one to be located at Marquette Elementary School.
The exiting NEON (New Educational Options and Networking) program serves “middle school-age students with an emotional/behavioral disability (EBD) who have not been successful in a full-day program at their home school despite numerous and varied interventions.”
Could you please provide details of any program changes or moves?
Ed Blume

The Superintendent responded:

Thanks for the email. I am always glad to clarify rumors. The NEON Program has not changed or moved. It still exist at Hoyt with the same staffing, etc. that we have had in the past. We did, however, establish two elementary ED alternative classes that will begin at Marquette this year. They are similar in design to NEON but serve primary and intermediate age EBD students who need a more structured, alternative service delivery model. Many of these kids are active with PBST [Postive Behavior Support Team] as well. Both classrooms are staffed with a teacher and two SEAs [special education assistant]. This is a “district” program serving students from any elementary school who meet the criteria and need this type of alternative, structured setting. We also have a full-time school psychologist allocated to this program. Jim Hassely, Coordinator Behavior Support, has been working closely with Joy Larson to set this program up in the Marquette/O Keeffe space. It will have minimal impact on Marquette, though, as the students will be served outside the general education classroom for the much of their school day.

I then posed a number of questions to the Superintendent and Jack Jorgensen, head of special ed, kindly responded in a detailed memo.

Next Steps for Fine Arts Education in Madison Public Schools – community arts education advisory committee?

An issue that interests and is important to me is arts education, and I hope to journal about this issue on this blog site and over the coming school year. Also, I hope to be able to play a different role in supporting arts education as a community member on the Partnership Commmittee.
For the past six years there have been various cuts in fine arts education for Madison’s students. If the current budget constraints continue, there will be continued cuts in Madison’s public schools, which will lead to continued cuts in many areas that contribute to an excellent education for all Madison’s children.