Lack of Math, Science Teachers Prompt US Alarm

Ledyard King:

School systems scrambling to find qualified science teachers are trying to recruit him. He’s a prized commodity in Texas, where nearly a quarter of science classes in middle and high schools are taught by teachers without proper science credentials.
“You have to want to (teach). They’re not paying teachers like the glamorous research jobs,” said Sinski, who had thought he’d follow his parents’ footsteps and become a pharmacist. But “research science doesn’t appeal to me. It’s monotonous. Teaching exposes you to different faces and new and exciting things.”

Children, Media and Sex: A Big Book of Blank Pages

Jane Brody:

In last summer’s prize-winning R-rated film “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” a barely pubescent boy is seduced into oral sex by two girls perhaps a year older, and his 6-year-old brother logs on to a pornographic chat room and solicits a grown woman with instant messages about “poop.”
Is this what your teenage children are watching? If so, what message are they getting about sexual mores, and what effect will it have on their behavior?
The journal Pediatrics addressed the topic last July in a supplemental report, “Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors.” It is an important and, sad to say, much neglected subject. The report, based on a thorough review of scientific literature, was requested by Congress and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

Video | MP3 Audio

Monday evening’s Board meeting presented a rather animated clash of wills between, it appears, those (A majority of the Board, based on the meeting discussions) who support Fitchburg’s Swan Creek residents and their desire to remain at a larger Leopold School vs. those who favor using existing District schools that have extra space for the 63 Fitchburg children (no other students would move under the plan discussed Monday evening), such as Lincoln and/or the Lincoln/Midvale pair.


UW-Madison Ranks as Top Producing Peace Corps Institution

Rachel Alkon:

Since the program’s inception in 1961, UW-Madison has produced thousands of volunteers. And today, for the 20th consecutive year, UW-Madison takes the top spot, with 104 volunteers currently serving in the field.
UW-Madison also ranks as the institution with the second highest number of volunteers with advanced degrees, with 18 alumni. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor earned the number spot in this category, with 22 volunteers.

The UW’s new website has an RSS feed.

State ranks 13th in national health study

By Anita Weier, The Capital Times, JAnuary 31, 2006
Wisconsin ranked 13th among the states in a national health study, down from ninth in 2004, as obesity and child poverty rose.
The study, titled America’s Health Rankings 2005, analyzed personal behaviors, community environment, health policies and health outcomes.
The healthiest states were Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Utah and Hawaii, in that order. The least-healthy was Mississippi, followed in order by Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and South Carolina.
Wisconsin’s strengths included a high rate of high school graduation, a low rate of violent crime, a low incidence of infectious diseases and a low rate of uninsured people.


School Board split on referendum: must vote by Feb. 17

By Susan Troller, The Capital Times, January 31, 2006
Madison voters may be looking at another referendum on school building this spring to address overcrowding issues, but the School Board appears split in its support of taking the issue to the voters.
School Board President Carol Carstensen has recommended that the administration prepare language that would ask voters to approve spending for a new $17 million elementary school on the city’s far west side and an addition to Leopold Elementary, south of the Beltline in Fitchburg. Both proposals were unanimously recommended by a citizen-led task force that has been studying boundary issues and overcrowding since last fall.


The State of High School Education in Wisconsin: A Tale of Two Wisconsins

Alan Borsuk on Phil McDade’s report for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute: [250K pdf]

“The growing performance gap is largely influenced by socioeconomic factors beyond the influence of schools,” McDade said. “Property wealth, poverty and race were found to affect student performance.”
The per-student spending difference was much smaller than the difference in test scores and actually was smaller in 2003-’04 than it was seven years earlier, leading McDade to conclude that increased spending would not be a key to closing the gap.
Even though the roots of the gap are in matters such as poverty, McDade suggested that policy makers consider steps to increase academic performance of high school students, including stronger graduation requirements, tougher admissions standards to University of Wisconsin campuses and increased emphasis on sending more high school graduates to college.

According to the report, Madison High Schools (along with Verona, Middleton-Cross Plains, Wisconsin Heights, Monticello, Monona Grove and Waunakee) were in the top 10% based on 1996-1997 WKCE results in. However, they (Madison) were no longer present in the top 10% based on 2003/2004 results (Deerfield, Dodgeville, Middleton-Cross Plains, McFarland, Waunakee and Verona were in the top 10% based on the 2003/2004 data).

“Lessons From Privately Managed Schools”

Can professional business management practices improve the performance of troubled public schools? Several high-visibility projects have been undertaken to bring best management practices to the classroom, including Harvard’s Public Education Leadership Project. But in the 1990s, a different approach was begun: Riding a wave of charter school legislation, for-profit and nonprofit startups called private education management organizations, or EMOs, were created, essentially private companies brought in to manage public schools
The result? Mixed, but promising, says Steven F. Wilson, a senior fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Wilson was founder and former CEO of one of those EMOs, Advantage Schools, which at its height had 10,000 students in its programs. He writes of his experiences in a new book, Learning on the Job: When Business Takes on Public Schools, published by Harvard University Press.

Leopold’s Math Night

Reader Troy Dassler emailed this photo, taken a few hours ago, at Leopold’s Math Night event.

Do recommendations meet stated goal?

When the task forces began, each had three stated goals to address, including the following:

Income dispartiy among schools

Just eyeballing the final reports of the task forces gives me the impression that the recommended changes will not significantly change the low-income percentages of kids in any of the schools.

The “Intelligence of 11 Year Olds has Fallen by 3 Years Worth in the Past Two Decades

The Sunday Times:

For a decade we’ve been told that our kids, just as they seem to be getting taller with each generation, are also getting brighter. Every year new waves of children get better GCSE, A-level and degree results than their predecessors. Meanwhile, in primary schools, the standards in national maths and English tests at 11 head in one direction — relentlessly upwards.
Last week came the bombshell that blew a gaping hole in this one-way escalator of achievement.
Far from getting cleverer, our 11-year-olds are, in fact, less “intelligent” than their counterparts of 30 years ago. Or so say a team who are among Britain’s most respected education researchers.
In the easiest question, children are asked to watch as water is poured up to the brim of a tall, thin container. From there the water is tipped into a small fat glass. The tall vessel is refilled. Do both beakers now hold the same amount of water? “It’s frightening how many children now get this simple question wrong,” says scientist Denise Ginsburg, Shayer’s wife and another of the research team.
Another question involves two blocks of a similar size — one of brass, the other of plasticine. Which would displace the most water when dropped into a beaker? children are asked. Two years ago fewer than a fifth came up with the right answer.

Scientific Brain Linked to Autism


He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills.
A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.
It is thought that around one child in every 100 has a form of autism – the vast majority of those affected are boys.
The number of diagnoses seems to be on the increase, but some argue this is simply because of a greater awareness of the condition.
In a paper published in the journal Archives of Disease of Childhood ($), Professor Baron-Cohen labels people such as scientists, mathematicians and engineers as ‘systemizers’.

NCES: “Status & Trends in the Education of Blacks”

National Center for Education Statistics:

Status and Trends in the Education of Blacks draws on the many statistics published by NCES in a variety of reports and synthesizes these data in one compact volume. In addition to indicators drawn from existing government reports, some indicators were developed specifically for this report. The objective of this report is to make statistical information about the educational status of Blacks easily accessible to a variety of audiences.

Bloomberg’s Partnership for Teacher Education

NYC Department of Education:

Supported by a $15 million four-year grant from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, the Partnership will address New York City’s need for highly qualified, well-trained teachers who will immediately be able to excel in the City’s public schools.
Through an unprecedented collaboration among K-12 educators and higher education faculty in education and the arts and sciences, the Partnership plans innovations in how pre-service teachers–students who are receiving formal education but have not yet become full-time teachers–are taught and by whom; how they first learn the craft of teaching, and how they continue to develop teaching skill throughout their careers. The Partnership will demonstrate how teacher education can be responsive to the City’s most pressing needs, how learning what to teach and learning how to teach can better come together, and how beginning teachers can be ready from the start to work effectively in urban classrooms.

Five Rules for Florida School Reform

Florida Governor Jeb Bush:

This year, Florida will introduce the largest reform package since the sweeping changes we made in 1999.
These reforms include differentiated pay and performance-based pay for teachers to attract and retain talented educators in critical subject areas, encourage them to teach in economically challenged schools and reward them for improving student performance.
Our proposed reforms will bring rigor and relevance to middle schools by requiring students in grades six through eight to earn 12 credits in math, science, language, arts and social studies for promotion to high school, and requiring those who cannot read at grade level to get reading instruction.
We’re also looking to revamp high schools to better prepare students for the future and for postsecondary education by creating career academies, where students can major or minor in math and science, or fine arts, or on career and vocational skills, depending on their goals and interests. The goal is for students to graduate knowing what they want to do with their lives, so they leave school armed with college credits toward their goal or, if they choose a vocational route, with certified skills for a specific industry.

Schools of Hope Needs More Math Tutors

Sandy Cullen:

Expanding on its efforts to increase the reading skills of elementary school students, the Schools of Hope project led by the United Way of Dane County also is focusing on helping middle school students develop the math skills needed to be successful in high school, college, employment and daily life.
Since the Madison School Board adopted the goal that all students would complete algebra by the end of ninth grade and geometry by the end of 10th grade, the option of taking less rigorous classes, such as general or consumer math, has disappeared.
All high school students are now required to take algebra and geometry – or two credits of integrated mathematics, combining algebra, statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry – in order to graduate.
“These are really gate-keeping courses and skills,” said Mary Ramberg, the district’s director of teaching and learning. She added that without them, students “will have a lot of options closed.”

Rafael Gomez is organizing a Forum on Math Curriculum Wednesday evening, February 22, 2006 at McDaniels Auditorium. Look for more information soon.

School Transfer Limit Ends

Amy Hetzner:

As state politicians and interest groups argue over whether to lift the enrollment cap in Milwaukee’s voucher school program, the cap in another school choice initiative is quietly slated to expire.
Under state law, the 2006-’07 school year will be the first time in Wisconsin’s open enrollment public school choice program in which school districts will be unable to control the number of students leaving their boundaries if they exceed a certain portion of their enrollment.
The provision, which had been in effect since open enrollment began in 1998, was used by at least 10 school districts to limit potential monetary losses in the current school year, according to figures from the state Department of Public Instruction. They include districts such as Florence, which faced possible dissolution this year before voters bailed out the financially ailing school system, and Palmyra-Eagle on the outskirts of the metropolitan Milwaukee area.

New Accounting Rule Shifts Retirement Costs

Avrum Lank:

For unions representing teachers and other government employees, the fine print is making it harder to negotiate improvements in benefits such as retiree health insurance.
“It certainly made my life more complex,” said Michael McNett, director of collective bargaining for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union.
For the Port Edwards School District, which has an annual budget of $6.1 million and 90 employees, the rule will mean an additional expense of about $120,000 a year – about the cost of employing two teachers , said Superintendent Michael W. Alexander.

Interesting Madison School District Budget Notes

A reader emailed this interesting MMSD budget item. The land and buildings around East Towne Mall are not in the MMSD, according to the district’s map.

Fitchburg contributed $10,030,120 or 5% [Fitchburg City Budget PDF] to the MMSD’s $200,363,255 total Tax Levy (total MMSD 2005/2006 budget is $321+M [includes funds redistributed via other means such as income, gas and other taxes/fees from state and federal organizations]); see the 2005-2006 Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption [PDF].

Latin lovers whoop it up at convention

Capital Times article published on Saturday, 1/28/06
by Susan Troller
When more than 400 enthusiastic young Latin lovers packed Great Hall of the Memorial Union this week, their whoops and cheers were loud enough to, well, awaken a dead language.
Hailing from both public and private high schools, the exuberant students were attending the annual Wisconsin Junior Classical League Convention, which began Thursday and ends today. The unlikely object of their enthusiasm was the study of Latin, which was, repeatedly, described as awesome, amazing and life-altering.
Carolyn Briggs, a Madison West junior who is president-elect of WJCL, said, “When I first went to the national convention, I fell in love. Not with a person, but with a language. Now my devotion to Latin, and to WJCL, borders on an obsession.”


The Vanishing Class: Why Does High School Fail So Many?

Mitchell Landsberg:

On a September day 4 1/2 years ago, nearly 1,100 ninth-graders — a little giddy, a little scared — arrived at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. They were fifth-generation Americans and new arrivals, straight arrows and gangbangers, scholars and class clowns.
On a radiant evening last June, 521 billowing figures in royal blue robes and yellow-tasseled mortarboards walked proudly across Birmingham’s football field, practically floating on a carpet of whoops and shouts and blaring air horns, to accept their diplomas.
It doesn’t take a valedictorian to do the math: Somewhere along the way, Birmingham High lost more than half of the students who should have graduated.
It is a crucial question, not just for Birmingham but for all American schools.
High school dropouts lead much harder lives, earn far less money and demand vastly more public assistance than their peers who graduate.

Lucy Mathiak posted MMSD dropout data, including those who showed high achievement during their elementary years.

iTunes U: College Lectures via Podcast

May Wong:

The University of Missouri offered podcasts of lectures through its school network before it signed up with Apple last summer as a pilot school. But “iTunes U” offered a software and service package for free, said Keith Politte, the development officer at the university’s School of Journalism.

Wanting Better Schools, Parents Seek Secession

Randal Archibold:

Ladera Heights, an unincorporated community of about 8,000 people, has for decades belonged to the school district in adjacent Inglewood, a decidedly poorer, predominantly black and Latino city whose schools have struggled academically and financially.
A group of Ladera Heights residents, many of whom have pulled their children out of Inglewood schools in favor of private ones, want their neighborhood assigned to the school district in Culver City, a more racially mixed, more affluent community than Inglewood.

A Different Approach: Affiliated Alternatives

Jason Shepherd recently wrote an article on the Madison School District’s Affiliated Alternatives Program. This differentiated program supports about 150 students:

Many of the school’s students have multiple problems, from severe learning deficits to turmoil at home. A countywide survey found they use alchol and marijuana at three times the rate of other students in Dane County.
Academic classes follow state standards but are tailored to students’ interests and needs, with a focuse on practical life skills.
One of the delights in spending time at Affiliated Alternatives is watching Principal Fischer in action.
It’s clear she’s in command, and she’s set high expectations for staff and students. She talkes to students with respect, and kids say they feel as if they can share problems with her.

View full article.

Sort of related: Carol Carstensen mentioned that the Board’s Performance and Achievement committee, in a somewhat rare meeting, will discuss heterogeneous groupings at 5 p.m. Monday, January 30, 2006. This is apparently the first of several meetings on this topic. West High School’s imminent English 10, one curriculum for all (apparently 40+ sophomore English electives reduced to none) has created no small amount of heterogeneous grouping discussion. I’m glad that a Board committee will soon discuss curriculum, in my view, the District’s #1 priority.

Carol Carstensen’s Weekly Update

Parent Group Presidents:
The district’s contract settlement with MTI for this year and next are 3.98% and 3.97% package increases. This is below the state average (about 4.5%), below the average for large districts and below the average for Dane County districts.
Jan 23rd Meetings:
5 p.m. Special Board Meeting:
The Board discussed the status of contracts for administrators but took no action. The administration has already proposed reducing 4 administrative positions next year.
6 p.m. Long Range Planning Committee Meeting (Bill Keys, chair):
The Committee received the reports and final recommendations from the East Area and the Memorial/West Areas Task Forces. The recommendations are as follows: East Area recommendations:
Do not close schools
2. Move Affiliated Alternatives to Marquette/O’Keeffe
3. Move MSCR to Emerson
4. Change the middle school feeder pattern to move either Emerson or Hawthorne students to O’Keeffe.
5. Move the undeveloped land near the intersection of Milwaukee St. and Fair Oaks to the East Area.
6. Possible boundary changes affecting the 4 schools on the north side (Gompers, Lakeview, Lindbergh and Mendota).
Memorial/West recommendations:
1. Build an addition onto Leopold and build a new school on the far west side.


Sweden Pays Teachers for Performance


Sweden did: ($$):

In Sweden the fixed pay scheme for teachers was abolished in the mid-1990s as part of an agreement designed to enhance local autonomy and flexibility in the school system. The government committed itself to substantially raise teacher salaries over a five-year period, but on the condition that not all teachers received the same increase. There is accordingly no fixed upper limit and only a minimum basic salary is centrally negotiated, along with the aggregate rise in the teacher salary bill. Salaries are negotiated when a teacher is hired and teacher and employer agree on the salary to be paid upon commencement of the term of employment. Teachers’ work roles and performance are considered in the negotiation and linked to the pay. There is now much greater variety in teachers’ pay, with those in areas of shortage and with higher demonstrated performance able to negotiate more.

It may seem strange that a social democracy so willing to limit economic freedom would embrace market-oriented reform of teacher pay. But according to this, Swedish policymakers concluded that “an expansion and improved quality of social services could not be accomplished without improving the efficiency in the public sector.” And the unions agreed, “in order to improve salaries and working conditions.”

Too often in America, we are forced to choose between destroying the public sector and preserving its every bad feature. But this guy was on to something. There is, well, a third way. And it’s a little sad when Sweden is working harder to find it than we are.

Proposal Would Send All Swan Creek Students to Lincoln

Kurt Gutknecht:

The plan advanced by Jerry Eykholt, a member of the task force studying ways to deal with overcrowding at schools on in west side of the Madison school district, would move students to Lincoln Elementary School.
Eykholt drafted the proposal in response to a letter signed by 185 households in Swan Creek who opposed moving students from Leopold.
One of the proposals had recommended moving Swan Creek students to Midvale and Lincoln elementary schools. Eykholt?s proposal would move them only to Lincoln, thereby reducing the length of the bus ride, which he said would address one of the major concerns of the residents.
Previous proposals would move elementary students to Lincoln (grades 3 through 5) and Midvale (grades K through 2). His proposal would require Lincoln to offer all elementary grades.
Eykholt called Lincoln “a very nurturing environment” that provided an exceptional level of assistance to students, a consequence of the district?s efforts to serve students from low-income families.

Internet Wake-up Call for Parents

Amy Hetzner:

In the crowded media center at West High School on Thursday night, Special Agent Erik Szatkowski led parents to what he considers manna for sexual predators: an online site where adolescents post their pictures, interests and other tidbits about themselves.

On the Web site, which describes itself as “a community of online diaries and journals,” Szatkowski introduced his audience to 14-year-old Katie, who likes “The O.C.,” and 14-year-old Brooke, who posted a photo of herself on her page. He also found a 12-year-old Milwaukee boy who boasted: “I’m a b-ball player. I’m a sexy beast. I’m a ladies man.”

Seeking A’s in a Few More Zzzz’s

Maria Glod:

At 6:20, the bus pulled up, and Carly was on her way to Robinson Secondary School.
Carly, an eighth-grader who complains she’s frequently groggy during early-morning classes, said she would prefer it if school “started at 8:30 and ended at 3.”
“I wake up because of all the people” in class, she said. “But I’m still tired.”

Primary School Beats NASA to Internet Award

The Telegraph:

Woodland Grange Primary school in Leicestershire beat the space agency and its online updates of the Rover Mars probe to win the education category of Yahoo! Search Finds of the Year.
The school’s mix of field trip tales, homework tips, nativity play photos and pupils’ weblogs won over judges, who also picked it ahead of opinion polls site YouGov and the British Geological Survey.

30 Years of Clout: MTI’s John Matthews & the ’76 Teacher’s Strike

Susan Troller:

The key architect behind that transformation was the tough young executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., John Matthews, who had come to Madison eight years earlier from Montana.
Thirty years later, Matthews is still tough and, more than ever, still casts a powerful shadow across the public education landscape of Madison as a tireless and relentless advocate for teachers. With Matthews at the helm, MTI has remained a dominant force in education and labor.

Former Madison Mayor (currently with Epic Systems – Verona) Paul Soglin weighs in as well.

In Public Schools, The Name game as a Donor Lure

Tamar Lewin:

Next fall, a stunning $55 million high school will open on the edge of Fairmount Park here. For now, it is called the School of the Future, a state-of-the-art building with features like a Web design laboratory and a green roof that incorporates a storm-water management system. But it may turn out to be the school of the future in another sense, too: It is a public school being used to raise a lot of private money.

One of these things is not like the others: School Board Oversees Task Forces Except When Savings in Health Care Costs at Stake

Recently, the Madison School Board has authorized a plethora of special committees to consider issues confronting the district and to make recommendations to the board. These committees have the potential to improve future board decisions by bringing new ideas and new information to our attention.
Currently, there is a special committee to advise the board on advertising. There are the two large task forces that recently issued recommendations regarding overcrowding and under-utilization problems in the West, Memorial and East High attendance areas. There is committee of parents, teachers, and administrators to suggest changes in our health and safety policies regarding animals in our classrooms. There is a committee to review whether staff and other resources are allocated equitably to the schools, taking differences in student populations into consideration. There are budget forums intended to seek community input on next year’s budget.
In every case, the board publicly discussed its goals for the committee before launching it. In every case, the board voted on a specific charge to the committee and set procedures and a timeline for meetings. In every case the board has received regular reports on the progress of the committee.
The glaring exception to this process was the creation of a task force of teachers union and district representatives to consider whether changes in health insurance programs for the teachers might make it possible for the district to shift dollars from health insurance payments to wages. Millions of dollars in potential savings are at stake.


Student Posting on District Food Policy

I am a member or the MMSD’s Student Senate. I am currently involved in a group discussing a draft of a proposed food policy which I feel is rather Draconian. The draft has not yet been made public (I am told this is because it is a “draft” and thus not ready for release) and that the issues have been publicized. However, I am concerned about some measures of the policy and feel that they have not been highlighted for interested parents. I think some of you might have concerns as well. Here are some of the propositions that my committee has voted against altering as well as what parents were told at the January 17th meeting about the policy
“When beverage vending is available, the only beverages that be offered for sale [not me wording] or permitted in schools at all sites accessible to students will be water, milk, fruit juices composed of 100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners of caffeine, and electrolyte replacement (“sports”) beverages that do not contain caffeine or more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20 oz serving.”
“No food will be sold to students in vending machines”
This is currently true of all elementary schools and most middle schools, but not the high schools. Vending sales at the four major high schools bring in roughly $15-20 thousand a year for the school (some of a principal’s only discretionary income). Personally, I feel eliminating all sales of soda and snacks seems extreme, especially considering the current financial pressure schools are under. The “cold turkey” elimination of all of these sales starting with the 06-07 school year seems like too much.
“Candy will not be given or sold to students nor offered for sale at school or to the community by the school during the school day. The sale of candy and snacks [this language will be revised to be more specific] is not permitted on school grounds during the school day.”
This would mean that clubs that rely on sales of such items would have to search for new methods. Bake sales would be eliminated. Students would be able to buy a giant cookie in the lunchroom, but not a small one in support of a club.


TABOR: Missing the Mark

Craig Maher:

Key to the discussion about state and local fiscal policy is the shared revenues program. While few would disagree with the premise that the shared revenues program was conceived in the early 1970s to compensate local governments for the State’s exemption of the manufacturing property and equipment, one cannot ignore the effect the program has been having on spending behavior.
Much of my research over the past six years has been on the impact of WI’s Shared Revenues program on local spending. It is important to understand that both in terms of the amount (nearly $1 billion annually) and the lack of strings attached to this aid (local governments can spend the money on whatever they see fit), WI is unique when compared to other states. While other states such as Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey have sizable intergovernmental aid programs, most are either tied to a specific revenue source such as sales or personal income taxes or require the funds to spent on specific programs/services.

Wisconsin Biotech: Could be a $10B Industry

Jim Leonhart:

“We have the critical mass to get serious about this sector of our economy,” Jim Leonhart, a biotech executive said Tuesday at a Wisconsin Innovation Network luncheon.
“We don’t have any option but to promote life science technologies, including stem cell research here in this state,” added Leonhart, who heads the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association.

Obiviously, our young people will need to tools (curriculum) to play in this era.

MTI Endorsements

Madison Teachers Inc’s PAC, MTI Voters endorsed [pdf] Juan Jose Lopez (Seat 2 vs. Lucy Mathiak) and Arlene Silveira (Seat 1 vs Maya Cole or Michael Kelly) for Madison School Board. Learn more about the candidates here. Cole and Mathiak have posted their responses to MTI’s candidate questions.
These endorsements have historically included a significant amount of PAC campaign support. Prior election campaign finance reports are available on the City Clerk’s website (scroll to the bottom).

School Boundary Changes & Housing


The looming boundary changes in the Madison Metropolitan School District are having an impact on the local housing market. Home sellers and buyers aren’t sure where kids will go to school.

Elimination at Jr. High

My Jr. High student at Jefferson has been informed that there is a good chance his Family and Consumer Education (FCE) and his Technology classes will not be at Jeffferson next year. I have heard ramblings about foreign language being reduced at Jr. High level as well.
This is where I begin to think Public Schools are going to continue to lose students. My son would never choose to take a foreign language or FCE. He is my “jock” and the wonderful cultural and diverse information he is receiving from foreign L.A. and F.C.E are the reason we keep sending our kids to a public school. If the public offerings dwindle to nothing, why would we, a middle to high income family continue to send our children to public schools? If MMSD continues eliminate the diversity and class selection, they can continue to see the decrease in high income students. Money is required to offer these classes, however, if the extra-curricula activities and interesting diverse classes are eliminated, the district will deal with less students, higher numbers of low income students, and the continual decrease of middle and high income students. Many will not see the significance of these numbers, but it is significant as costs rise to educate students that demand more social and psychological needs. The district needs to evaluate the long term effects of eliminating these programs.

Candidate Forum: Dane County Public Affairs Council

Wednesday, 1.25.2006; 7:30 – 9:00a.m. @ US Bank Plaza [map / directions] Lower Level Conference Room:

A discussion of issues facing our school district and community such as: high costs and low achievement; the budget; revenue caps; referenda; reading and math curricula; health care costs; dministrative costs; contract negotiations; boundary changes and school closings/new buildings; violence in schools; Fund 80; and more. Primary election for seat one is Feb. 21. Final elections in April. Who will earn your support?

Curriculum Policy – Top School Board Priority

Student achievement is a top priority of all school boards. To me student achievement in any subject area results from how well the student is able to learn and to experience what’s being taught. Multitudes of factors effect how well students are able to learn –for example, a students’ personal socioeconomic background and parents’ education, the school environment, teacher training, etc. There is something else that can effect how well each and every child will learn – curriculum.
What is the school board’s responsibility regarding curriculum? In the next few blogs, I’ll be posting some information I’ve gathered and thoughts/questions I have about curriculum policy and school board responsibility. Personally, I feel that developing and overseeing curriculum policy is one of the most important roles of any school board if that board’s top priority is student achievement. What is the MMSD School Board’s curriculum policy?

On Becoming the Bad Class

All Things Considered:

Commentator Emily Wylie teaches 11th grade English at a New York City public girls’ school. She also taught them when they were in 8th grade, and since then they’ve gotten a reputation as a bad class. Wylie doesn’t disagree.

Vonnegut on Modern Society

Morning Edition:

The author Kurt Vonnegut has been looking to the future through his writing ever since the publication of his first novel, Player Piano. The story tells of a time when men are displaced by machines in the workplace. Society is reduced to a managing class and a consuming class. His books have often included an element of science fiction, including his most famous work, Slaughterhouse-Five.


Vonnegut’s short story, Harisson Bergeron is a must read:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Searches for Superintendents Hang on a Pivotal Decision

Ian Shapira:

As many of the nation’s school systems begin searching for new superintendents in the next few months, they will employ a traditional tactic: secrecy. In many cases, the process will involve only a select few who know who is being considered for what can be a municipality’s most highly paid public…

Administrator Contracts – School Board Adds to Agenda

An agenda item has been added to tomorrow night’s School Board meeting – Administrator Contracts. The board meeting begins following a 5 p.m. executive session. Meeting location is in Lincoln Elementary School, 909 Sequoia Trail.
I hope the State of WI legal requirements regarding this class of employee contract is presented. Does MMSD meet / exceed these legal requirements? If so, how?
Questions that are not clear to me include: a) is a two-year rolling contract required for all administrators, b) what is the difference between non-renewal and extension of a contract – is the end of January date really an extension?, c)is there a Board policy – if not, does one need to be developed, d) are there options open to the School Board to hold on one-year contract extensions due to upcoming cuts to the budget, e) how can changes be made by moving/retraining staff if needed, and f) can grant money being used to pay for administrators be used in other ways (not including grant oversight/accounting? We’re in the same spot as the past two years – not talking about administrator contracts until one week or so before a deadline.
I feel this information needs to be clear and to be transparent to all employees, the board and the community. I believe a multi-year staffing strategy as part of a multi-year strategic plan is important to have, especially given the critical nature of the district’s resources. This idea is not proposed as a solution to the public school’s financial situation – not at all, that’s not the point.
The $100 budget process is helping the community learn about the fiscal constraints and is an important first step, but this community exercise does not provide for reallocation of resources or different ways of doing things. A next step could help answer the question – now what? A multi-year strategic plan would provide the opportunity for the community to talk about those next steps, convey their values, etc. What does the community want Madison’s public education to look like in five year (ten years), what do we need to do, and what do we need to do differently.

Citizens swing ax at school budget

A story by Sandy Cullen in the Wisconsin State Journal reports on two groups that tried the $100 budget exercise:

The State Journal asked 10 people to participate in the exercise led by Superintendent Art Rainwater and his assistant superintendent for business services, Roger Price. District administrators will lead additional sessions of the exercise at Madison’s 11 middle schools on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
“This is not a process to build a budget,” Price said. Rather, the exercise is meant to give residents an opportunity to express their priorities to administrators and School Board members as the district puts together its 2006-07 budget.

College Aid Plan Rates US High School Academic Rigor

Sam Dillon:

The measure, backed by the Bush administration and expected to pass the House when it returns next month, would provide $750 to $1,300 grants to low-income college freshmen and sophomores who have completed “a rigorous secondary school program of study” and larger amounts to juniors and seniors majoring in math, science and other critical fields.
It leaves it to the secretary of education to define rigorous, giving her a new foothold in matters of high school curriculums.
Mindful of the delicate politics at play when Washington expands its educational role into matters zealously guarded as local prerogatives, senior Department of Education officials said they would consult with governors and other groups in determining which high school programs would allow students to qualify for grants.

Administrator and Teacher Contracts – Timing and Position do Seem to Matter

Teachers sign their contracts for the next year usually in March – however, this is not a guarantee of a job for next year. Teachers can still be surplused or laid off from their jobs. The process for this is governed by their MTI contract.
Surplusing teachers effects the school budget the next school year, so there is an “immediate” effect upon the number of teachers, upon the district’s educational resources available for children’s learning and upon the budget’s bottom line. This is different for MMSD personnel on administrative contracts. Administrative contracts are in most cases two-year rolling contracts, except as stated in the Human Resources (HR) policy , so the financial effect of reducing administrative positions that are filled can take up to 18 months to be reflected in the budget. Wouldn’t this reduce the Board’s decisionmaking authority during the budget process and potentially put an additional burden of budget cuts on teachers, psychologists, social workers, custodians, etc.?
Does this mean that administrative employees on a two-year rolling contract have 18 months to retrain/to apply for an open position in MMSD or to find a new job while still keeping their current job and getting paid if their contract is not extended. WI law governs some of the policy in place, but I don’t know how much of MMSD’s policy is required by state law, and I don’t know if state law requires contracts for all administrative personnel.


Literacy of College Students Finds Some are Graduating with Only Basic Skills

Pew Charitable Trusts:

Twenty percent of U.S. college students completing 4-year degrees – and 30 percent of students earning 2-year degrees – have only basic quantitative literacy skills, meaning they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gasoline to get to the next gas station or calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies, according to a new national survey by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Science Standards Mediocre, Study Finds

Fordham Foundation criticizes focus on ‘discovery learning.’
More than two-thirds of states have science standards that earn a C grade or worse for their quality, in part because they overemphasize “discovery learning,” the idea that students should be encouraged to acquire knowledge through their own investigation and experimentation, a study issued last week concludes.
Too many of those standards—documents that spell out what students are expected to know—also present science in a sprawling, unorganized way that is short of facts and content, according to the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
By Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, December 14, 2005


Thank you, Carol, for posting questions about the future of the Doyle Building

Dear Carol,
You raise several intriquing questions in your recent post on the Doyle Buildin. I look forward to you putting the future use/ownership of the Doyle building on a School Board agenda so that there can be full and public discussion of the costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages of a full range of proposals from no change to sale. Having read the various memos, I know that I would appreciate a full exploration of factual and verifiable information on what the move would mean.
A meaningful inquiry, with opportunity for respectful dialogue between an informed public – including developers, preservationists, and members of the university community – and an engaged board would go a long way toward vetting the issues related to continued ownership, use as a rental property, or sale.
I am confident that you will post the date when this will be on the board agenda to this and other sites so that we can all stay current with the discussion. Thank you so much for your interest in this intriguing question and for your interest in exploring alternative proposals and new ideas for handling district resources.
Lucy Mathiak

Non-Renewal (or Contract Extension) of MMSD Administrative Contracts is Not About the Value of Administrators’ Roles

Administrators are a vital and integral part of any responsibly operating organization, including MMSD. If I feel that way, why would I would like to see the School Board consider making decisions that would keep options for staff reductions open until later in the budget process? Given that no multi-year strategic, budget or staffing plans are in place, I would like the School Board to discuss what their options are at this time or is the only option moving to one-year contracts for a majority of administrators. I urge the Board to maintain their decision-making flexibility at this time in the annual budget process.
Two years ago, as I was learning more about MMSD’s operations, I came across the end of January date (which is based on WI law, but I don’t know the specifics or how MMSD’s Human Resources applies the policy) to notify administrators of contract extensions for one year or non-renewal (I haven’t found all the definitions). I felt then the school board’s authority to make budgetary decisions was diminished if the passing of this date meant the board was “locked” into multi-year personnel commitments for administrative employees at the start of the budget process.


Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools School-funding update

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.
Quality Counts grades are mixed for Wisconsin
Waukesha looks at cutting $3 million, 32 positions … and more
Racine looking at yet another referendum
School districts prepare for budget cuts
School-funding reform calendar


Budget Obfuscation

There’s been no shortage of budget discussions on this site, particularly attempts to make the process and results transparent (this year, the MMSD is offering a $100 Budget process which focuses on reductions in a budget that grows annually). These questions are not unique to Madison. Reform advocate Winslow Wheeler publishes a useful attempt to help us all understand the actual size of the Defense Department budget. I like their objectives:

The project considers both the fiscal and strategic implications of defense programs and promotes informed oversight of Pentagon activities. The Straus Military Reform Project provides analysis and fosters debate on the uses, strategy, doctrine and forces of the U.S. military and its role in the wider national security structure. It provides a forum for discussion and encourages the free expression of all views.

Locally, an open, easily understood budget process is essential to taxpayer support for public education. obfuscation.

Medicaid Spending Overtakes Education

Kevin Freking:

States now spend more on health care for the poor than they do on elementary and secondary education, a policy group said Thursday in its annual review of efforts to deal with the growing problem of the uninsured.
The states spent 21.9 percent of their revenue on Medicaid in fiscal year 2004. Elementary and second education consumed about 21.5 percent of states’ budgets. Higher education came in at a distant third, 10.5 percent.

Learn more at The report (pdf) is available here.
The previously discussed “Geezer Wars” are clearly underway. This is one of many reasons why I don’t believe we’ll see significant changes to school funding – beyond the current annual moderate increases. In Madison’s case, school spending has increased from $200M in 1994/1995 to $329M in 05/06.

Work Study School Set for 2007

Jay Matthews:

The first private high school in the area to support itself largely through wages earned by students working one day a week for local employers will open in Takoma Park in fall 2007, the Archdiocese of Washington announced yesterday.
Archdiocese officials said the new Cristo Rey school, based on a work-study model first tried in inner-city Chicago 10 years ago, will be its first new archdiocese high school in more than 55 years. It will open on the site of Our Lady of Sorrows School, a parish elementary school closing this year because of declining enrollment.

Nearly 38% of Arkansas Children Overweight

Andrew DeMillo:

Thirty-eight percent of Arkansas’ public school children are overweight or at risk of being overweight, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said in a report issued Thursday.
The finding was the same as last year’s when UAMS also studied the effects of a 2003 state law that called for mandatory and voluntary changes in the schools to address health issues among Arkansas’ children.
Health officials said Thursday they hope to see obesity numbers decline as more schools offer healthier food choices.

Learn more about this issue here and by watching the recent Nutrition and Schools Forum.

Rebuilding the American Dream Machine

The Economist:

One of the more unlikely offices to have been flooded with mail is that of the City University of New York (CUNY), a public college that lacks, among other things, a famous sports team, bucolic campuses and raucous parties (it doesn’t even have dorms), and, until recently, academic credibility.
A primary draw at CUNY is a programme for particularly clever students, launched in 2001. Some 1,100 of the 60,000 students at CUNY’s five top schools receive a rare thing in the costly world of American colleges: free education. Those accepted by CUNY’s honours programme pay no tuition fees; instead they receive a stipend of $7,500 (to help with general expenses) and a laptop computer. Applications for early admissions into next year’s programme are up 70%.
Admission has nothing to do with being an athlete, or a child of an alumnus, or having an influential sponsor, or being a member of a particularly aggrieved ethnic group—criteria that are increasingly important at America’s elite colleges. Most of the students who apply to the honours programme come from relatively poor families, many of them immigrant ones. All that CUNY demands is that these students be diligent and clever.

International Baccalaureate program considered for grades K-12

Maricella Miranda writes:
Teachers and administrators want to keep challenging students in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district [MN], but traditional college-prep courses may not be enough.
That’s why the International Baccalaureate program might be introduced into the curriculum districtwide. The program’s rigorous courses demand critical thinking and hands-on learning from students of all ages while focusing on international components for each subject. The IB program is taught in 1,597 schools in 122 countries.
There are three International Baccalaureate programs for grades K-12. They have common components, such as relating subjects and finding connections in local and international communities.
“We want to make sure we have something that gives our students an advantage. We want our students to stay in our district,” Babbitt said. Adding the programs to District 191’s curriculum would cost an estimated $100,000, district administrators said.

Rufus King, Milwaukee WI , known as the Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School is a WI urban, citywide, college preparatory high school that is strongly committed to math, science, technology, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. Well over 1000 students each year now vie for the 350 freshmen seats. Rufus King is consistently in the top 50% of schools in the U.S., and the top 3.5% of schools worldwide in the number of IB examinations given.

Tongue in Cheek Solution

I have noticed a movement about MMSD. There seems to be the following needs:
1. Make each grade/class the same across the district so that all
students have a equitable distribution of funds, resources, and knowledge. (Connected math, FOSS science, middle school curriculm, and West English)
2. Great concern from “legal” I assume that food, animals, and flammable paper present a hazard to the students and potentially invite a lawsuit. (pet proposal, upcoming food proposal to eliminate any homemade food in the school, and the fire code issue)
3. Boundary changes to solve growth and income disparity which causes financial stress on the district. (Task forces, failed referendum, spending cap)
So here’s the solution:


Where are the Parents?

Madison District 15 Alder (and MMSD Affiliated Alternatives Employee) Larry Palm:

Tonight I attended the Public Forum at O’Keefe Middle School to discuss a potential move of the Affiliated Alternatives into the building shared with Marquette Elementary School.

I appreciated the high level of questions asked of Steve Hartley, the District’s Director of Alternative Programs. A large majority of questions revolved around the anticipated interactions between students at what would essentially be a K-12 campus (minus the students that attend certain grades at Lapham Elementary School– which is also another option on the East Side Task Force for either the Affiliated Alternatives or the administrative offices of MSCR).

Palm also notes that it is budget time again and suggests that the District “take this year off from a referendum”.

Response to “The Gap According to Black”

I think we need to be careful about what we assume when we are talking about students of color in the schools. The children of color in our schools include a growing number of children whose parents, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, are highly educated with degrees ranging from the BA/BS levels to PhD, law, and medical degrees. Many have attended schools or come from communities with high numbers of professionals of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, or American Indian heritage. As our businesses and higher educational institutions hire more diverse professionals, we will see more children of color from middle and upper income families.
Children of color with highly educated parents historically have had trouble getting access to advanced educational opportunities regardless of their academic preparation or ability. And we are seeing a concurrent relocation to private schools, suburbs, and other cities because the parents have every bit as high expectation for their children as any other parents.
We also need to take a look at ALL children – including low income and/or children of color – when we are planning for advanced academic opportunities and placement in our schools. According to an MMSD study a few years ago, a significant portion of our high school drop outs are African American males who tested at the high end of the scale at the elementary level.

MMSD Withdrawal/Did Not Graduate Student Data
(1995 – 1999)

When the District analyzed dropout data for this five year period, they identified four student profiles. One of these groups, it could be argued, would have benefited from appropriately challenging learning opportunities, opportunities which might have kept them engaged in school and enabled them to graduate.

Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved

This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:
• Grade 5 math scores 84.2 percentile
• Male 55%
• Low income 53%
• Minority 42%
• African American 31%
• Hispanic 6%
• Asian 5%
Group 1 dropouts (expressed as the % of total dropouts for that school)

High School
East 25.9%
La Follette 23.8%
Memorial 23.4%
West 32.4%

We all – including the Madison School Board – need to ask whether we are doing enough to identify and provide opportunities for gifted and talented youth among children of color or children from low income backgrounds. Then we need to create sufficient classes and class space to allow ALL children who are capable of succeeding access to the highest level of classes possible. Creating false shortages for advanced academics helps no one, from individual students to entire schools.
Many of our schools now enroll populations that are 40% – 60% students of color. To have advanced classses with only a few – if any – students drawn from this potential talent pool, defies the statistical odds for the population. We can change this if, as a school community, we have the will to do so and the courage to talk openly about our priorities, practices, and assumptions.

Some Students Use Net To Hire Experts to Do Their School Work

Lee Gomes:

But what the computer-programming student who goes by the handle “Lover Of Nightlife” did last month, as the fall semester raced to a close, could only have happened in the age of the Internet: He went online to outsource his predicament.
“This is homework I did not have time to study for,” he said in a message on a Web site devoted to outsourcing computer projects. “I need you guys to help me.”
Attached was a take-home final exam for a computer class that Mr. Nightlife Lover wanted to pay someone else — presumably, someone from a place where people can’t afford a lot of night life to begin with — to take for him.

Math Will Rock Your World

Business Week:

Neal Goldman is a math entrepreneur. He works on Wall Street, where numbers rule. But he’s focusing his analytic tools on a different realm altogether: the world of words.
Goldman’s startup, Inform Technologies LLC, is a robotic librarian. Every day it combs through thousands of press articles and blog posts in English. It reads them and groups them with related pieces. Inform doesn’t do this work alphabetically or by keywords. It uses algorithms to analyze each article by its language and context. It then sends customized news feeds to its users, who also exist in Inform’s system as — you guessed it — math.

School Information System Blog Open to All Perspectives

In a recent comment, a person asked if you had to be unhappy with MMSD to write on the blog. Short answer – no. Jim Zellmer, who began this blog, encourages folks with all different thoughts, ideas and opinions about MMSD and education to write and/or make comments on the blog. I would like to encourage those who are interested in writing about what they think and what their ideas, hopes and dreams are for public education will contact Jim (zellmer at virtualproperties_dot_com) to learn more about becoming a SIS blogger. Diverse perspectives have the potential to enrich and deepen the discussions, which I feel will benefit our community.

“State Support for Higher Education Has No Correlation with College Quality”

Anne K. Walters writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Public colleges in states that spend a lot of money on higher education aren’t necessarily better than colleges in states that provide them with meager support, according to a report that ranks states based on an analysis of their higher-education budgets and the performance of their colleges. The report, which was prepared by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, attempts to answer the age-old question in debates over state financing of higher education: Does more money equal better quality? The report, A New Look at the Institutional Component of Higher Education Finance: A Guide for Evaluating Performance Relative to Financial Resources [by Patrick J. Kelly & Dennis P. Jones] compares state funds for higher education in each state with colleges’ performance in a variety of areas, including graduation and participation rates. The report concludes that education can succeed even when state support falls.

Wisconsin ranks #4 in “Performance relative to funding” for public research institutions.

Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

On Wednesday, January 11, representatives of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) and the Madison school district met at the union’s headquarters for three hours. MTI Executive Director John Matthews chaired the meeting. It was the first of two meetings at which MTI and MMSD will supposedly explore the potential for savings on health insurance costs for the teachers. Those expecting a serious effort by union and district representatives to compare costs and services from a range of health insurance providers and press the companies for savings will be seriously disappointed.
There were two presentations at the meeting: one from representatives of Wisconsin Physicians Services (WPS) and one from Group Health Cooperative (GHC). Despite a promise from the board president and superintendent that the meeting would be videotaped, the district did not tape the meeting. So far only the text for the WPS presentation (with accompanying PowerPoint) is available for public review.
At the meeting on January 25, 2006—also at MTI’s headquarters at 821 Williamson Street beginning at 1 p.m.—the task force will hear presentations from representatives of Dean Care and Unity. There has been no explanation of why there will not be presentations from Physicians Plus or the State Group Health Plan. Both offer services comparable to those that teachers currently receive under the collective bargaining agreement between the parties at competitive rates.


Charter Schools And Healthful Foods

Lifelong Learning: Electronic Rights

A number of local organizations use Yahoo Groups for their inter-group communications. James McMurry notes that Yahoo is now tracking your usage per MACHINE via web beacons:

The following message was sent to me by the moderator of another group that I’m in. Everyone needs to be aware of it as Yahoo is tracking people now, even when they are not on the Yahoo site.
If you belong to ANY Yahoo Groups – be aware that Yahoo is now using “Web Beacons” to track every Yahoo Group user. It’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when you’re not connected to Yahoo.
Look at their updated privacy statement at: About half-way down the page, in the section on cookies, you will see a link that says WEB BEACONS.

Ray Everett-Church posts a counterpoint to this matter.
In my view a blog is a far more effective, and safe tool to use for group activities. We’re happy to help set one up for you. Just email zellmer at mailbag_dot_com Safe computing – think, be aware and practice it 🙂 The EFF has more on privacy and other electronic rights topics.
UPDATE: Another approach via Apple’s iTunes: ask permission.

Foreign Languages: iPod Phrase Book


Doing some traveling and want to speak the local language? Then you need Rambler – language phrase books designed for the iPod and made for the real world. Rambler is here to help make travel everything you want it to be. With over 900 words and phrases per language at your fingertips, mixing with the locals will be something you can look forward to.

Looks interesting, though I’ve not given it a try just yet.

Will the MMSD School Board Majority Appear to Let Administrators Preserve Jobs – Their Own?

A 2006 budget staffing discussion to come before the School Board tonight is about changes to administrative positions for next school year outlined in a memo to the School Board from the Superintendent. (Download memo on administrative changes for 2006-2007). The Superintendent is intending to save money through the elimination of several positions via resignations or retirements. I don’t remember seeing a dollar figure in the memo. However, I don’t feel this is an adequate administrative staffing reduction proposal at this time in the budget process.
What’s the big deal? If there are no other reductions made to the administrative budget prior to the end of this month, no additional reductions in administrative positions can be made due to requirements in the administrators’ contracts. This means that any and all other necessary reductions in staffing positions will have to come from those personnel who most likely work directly with students – teachers, SEAs, etc. I’m not proposing staffing cuts, but the School Board will be facing budget cuts this spring for next year.
To prevent this, the School Board might consider a minimum of a 20%+ reduction (vs. the proposed less than 5% reduction) in the administrative contract budget. Why? Later in the budget process, the School Board will be faced with cuts to custodians, teachers, etc. I believe the School Board could consider taking this action now to enable them to have the ability to make the best decisions on behalf of students when they have better information about what additional cuts will be proposed.
Last spring Lawrie Kobza made the following comment: “For the most part, our budget cuts are not based upon whether we are overstaffed in a particular area. I don’t feel that we cut teachers, or social workers, or custodians because we felt that we were overstaffed in those areas. We didn’t compare the District to benchmarks from other districts on custodial staffing levels to determine appropriate staffing levels for the District. We cut custodians because we had a budget that we had to meet.”


Burmaster allocates $1.25 million for high-cost special education aid

Elizabeth Burmaster, State of WI Superintendent recently informed school districts that she is setting aside federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) discretionary funding to reimburse Wisconsin schools for services to children with severe disabilities.
“I am again allocating federal discretionary dollars, a total of $1.25 million, to support my Keeping the Promise: High-Cost Special Education Aid program,” Burmaster said.
“It is our long-held belief that all children are entitled to a quality education. However, some of our students have severe or multiple disabilities that require very specialized equipment and services that can cost three or more times the average expense of educating a student. This aid will help our schools pay for services for these children.”
School districts have until February 24 to make claims for costs incurred in the 2004-05 school year. Reimbursement will be made in June. As in past years, the Department of Public Instruction expects that the number and amount of eligible claims will require that reimbursement be prorated.

I wonder how much MMSD received last year – how were the reimbursed funds allocated? What decision(s) did the Board make? Did the reimbursed funds stay in the Special Education Fund or were they reallocated to other areas in the budget. As clarification, I’m not talking about the funds from DPI but the funds they are reimbursing. I also know that special education was cut last year as were other areas in the budget.

Soglin on Quality in Government

Paul Soglin:

There must be public sector leaders who are more concerned about their legacy than the next election. There must be an environment of trust so that as review is done of past failures, it is free from recrimination and blame. The purpose of the checking and reviewing must be to learn for future not to assign blame.
To find a mayor or a governor with the inclination, the time, and the values to focus on serious management issues is no easy task. In today’s environment, with Katrinas, failing bridges, poor school systems, and the prospect of terrorism at every corner, the matter is even more pressing.

Of McDonalds and K-12 Schools

From an email I received recently:
McDonald’s has competition everywhere… globally. It is exceptional when it comes to standardization of product and services – they even have Hamburger U. Yet I have been to McDonald’s in suburbia and McDonald’s in rural America and McDonald’s in poor urban areas. They are not equal. And it isn’t just a case of McDonalds.. the same is true for Burger King and any other fast food chain that has corporate inspections and standards.
For instance, the Burger King, KFC, and McDonald’s near my urban church each suffer from the same problems – they are dirtier and have poorer service than those same stores in the suburban area I live in… there is no McDonald’s Playland in the urban Cleveland or Akron McDonald’s I know but there are loads of them out in my suburban area. Competition doesn’t seem to be helping those who live in the poor urban area gain the same experience those in suburbia get… even with restaurants that possess strong standards and assessments.
I think this says something about the theory that competition would be good for our schools and would equalize the playing field for kids in urban, rural, and suburban schools. It doesn’t seem to be working for McDonald’s.
Sue Ramlo, PhD
Professor of General Technology
Department of Engineering & Science Technology
The University of Akron
Akron, OH 44325-6104

A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States

American Heart Association:

The report is that nearly one sixth of young people between the ages of 2-19 are said to be overweight. While this is alarming, it is perhaps even more important to appreciate that the 16% overweight rate represents the nationwide average. Local rates vary widely depending on gender, race, socioeconomic status, educational background, and probably more, as yet, undetermined factors.
Among Mexican Americans ages 6-19, nearly one in four boys, and one in five girls are overweight. Over one fifth of African American females ages 6-19 are overweight. Combining these figures with those at risk for being overweight, we learn that excessive weight threatens the health of between a third and a half of children in these groups. And, the situation continues to worsen.

Reader Jonathan Gramling Regarding Juan Jose Lopez’s First Fundraising Letter

Reader Jonathan Gramling emails in response to this article:

In reference to Ed Blume’s and Barb Schrank’s comments about the Juan José López fundraising letter, if the shoe fits, wear it. The difference between being critical and being negative is just partisan semanntics like the difference between insurgent and freedom fighter. It’s not the high road. It just reflects your partisan leanings and who you support in an election. So don’t be so condescending!
Jonathan Gramling

Program & staffing changes in my $100 budget exercise

$1.74 – Move all employees in Curriculum Research and Staff Development into classroom teaching and school administrative positions that will be vacated through normal attrition.
$0.40 – Replace Reading Recovery with Read 180
$0.15 – Move Associated Alternatives to Doyle. (Plenty of room with Curriculum Research & Staff Development leaving. Use UW facilities for gym. Use various large conference rooms for lunch.)
$?.?? – Move MSCR to Doyle. Mothball Hoyt subject to further review of best use or sale.
$0.043 – Eliminate one administrative position in superintendent’s office.
$0.043 – Eliminate Legislative Liaison position; rely on lobbyists of Wisconsin School Board Association.
$0.043 – Eliminate Director, Public Information.
$0.243 – Eliminate 9 positions in Gateways to Learning
$0.043 – Eliminate 1 position in research
$0.043 – Eliminate 1 position in Human Resources
Total reduction $2.791 or $7,256,600, without eliminating a single classroom teacher.

Singapore Education Minister Compares Singapore and America Schools

Newsweek International Edition columnist Fareed Zakaria interviewed Singapore Minister of Education Tharman Shanmugaratnam to understand why he believes Singapore students score tops in math and science on international tests, but lacks leaders in business, academia, math and science in the professional world.
Shanmugaratnam’s sees driving ambition, creativity, and adventuresomeness as lacking in Singapore students — characteristics that are not measured in global testing. He says, “Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. ”
Funding and academic-private partnerships are another factor in U.S. favor, he says. Foundations are critical for funding research in the U.S. “For example, you could not imagine American advances in biomedical sciences without the Howard Hughes Foundation,” says Shanmugaratnam.
But Shanmugaratnam is not all praise for U.S. education system. “[It] as a whole has failed. Unless you are comfortably middle class or richer,” he explained, “you get an education that is truly second-rate by any standards…. In Singapore we get the poor kid who is very bright and very hungry, and that’s crucial to our success.”

More on Milwaukee Vouchers & TABOR

John Fund:

The irony is that public educators in Milwaukee believe choice has helped improve all the city’s schools. “No longer is MPS a monopoly,” says Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos. “That competitive nature has raised the bar for educators in Milwaukee to provide a good product or they know that parents will walk.” The city’s public schools have made dramatic changes that educators elsewhere can only dream of. Public schools now share many buildings with their private counterparts, which helps alleviate the shortage of classrooms. Teachers, once assigned strictly by seniority, are now often hired by school selection committees. And 95% of district operating funds now go directly to schools, instead of being parceled out by a central office. That puts power in the hands of teachers who work directly with students.

Milwaukee schools are still struggling, but progress is obvious. Students have improved their performance on 13 out of 15 standardized tests. The annual dropout rate has fallen to 10% from 16% since the choice program started. Far from draining resources from public schools, spending has gone up in real terms by 27% since choice began as taxpayers and legislators encouraged by better results pony up more money.

Rich Eggleston says that TABOR would subvert Democracy:

In Wisconsin, the ‘Taxpayers Bill of Rights’ is being billed as a tool of democracy, but it’s actually a tool to subvert the representative democracy that to reasonable people has worked pretty well. When Milwaukee-area resident Orville Seymeyer e-mailed me and suggested I “get on the TABOR bandwagon,” this is what I told him:

via wisopinion

Questions about using the Doyle Building

Since there have been different ideas about using Doyle to solve some of the district’s space/funds problems, I thought I would list the questions that occur to me as I consider next steps.
1.Locate the Affliated Alternatives (at Brearly) in Doyle:
a. How much space will AA need?
b. What will be the cost of remodeling to accommodate students?
c. What about cafeteria and gym space?
d. Where would we move the staff that must leave Doyle to make room for the students?
e. What is the cost of the move and of remodeling the new space?
2.Sell or lease Doyle
a. Where would central office staff be located?
b. What is the cost of the move?
c. What is the cost of remodeling the new space?
d. What are the out-of-pocket costs (travel, time, etc) of locating Doyle staff in more than one location?
e. What is a realistic expectation of the money generated by a long-term lease?
f. What is a realistic expectation about the amount Doyle would bring if sold?
g. If there is development potential, why haven’t there been proposals for the district/UW parking lots behind Doyle?

Lagging Freshman Reassigned Before Test

Nick Anderson:

At least 2,500 ninth-graders in Prince George’s County will abruptly move this week from a standard one-year algebra course into a two-year program, shielding the struggling students from a state graduation test this spring that officials said they were likely to fail.
The highly unusual shift comes midway through the school year in one of Washington’s largest suburban school systems and in some respects runs counter to a regional trend of pushing students to take higher-level mathematics as early as possible.

Urban League Honors Outstanding Students

Nine local high school students were inducted into the National Achievers Society at Sunday’s 22nd annual Youth Recognition Breakfast. The society was started by the National Urban League and other civic groups to promote positive attitudes about academic achievement, school participation, and a committment to exceeding expectations. The inducted students include Tyrone Cratic of East, Ricquelle Badger of Edgewood, Chukwuma Offor of La Follette, Heena Ahmed of McFarland, Latoya Allen of Memorial, April Greene of Sun Prairie, Tessia Brown of Verona, Rob Hetzel of Waunakee, and Diana Savage of West. In addition, Halil Ahmed and Shamika Kroger from Memorial and La’Basha McKinney of East were named Mann Scholars, a program that honors the legacy of Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, African-American parents whose five children graduated from Madison schools and went on to receive college degrees. Outstanding Young Person Awards were also presented to over 170 middle and high school students from around Dane county. Congratulations to these exemplary students.

Madison school puzzle at crossroads

Sandy Cullen writes:
For nearly two years, a wide range of school officials and parents have puzzled over what to do about the lopsided enrollment trends. In the next few weeks, the emotionally charged issue will come to a head as two task forces offer their ideas to the Madison School Board.
A next step might include representatives from both task forces working with the school board, because these representatives bring to the table the two very different perspectives of these task forces, which the School Board will have to meld into one plan. Both task forces have worked thoughtfully and diligently, and representatives of these task forces would bring that experience to help with next steps.
As a community, we need to make this work for all kids fairly with consideration of their education needs and the financial resources available.

“War Against Vouchers”

Andrew J. Coulson:

Unlike previous school-choice cases, Bush v. Holmes did not hinge on the use of public funds at religious schools. Instead, five of the seven presiding justices ruled that school vouchers violate the “uniformity” clause of Florida’s Constitution. Far from being an arcane and forgotten technicality, this clause was amended and reapproved by voters just eight years ago: It mandates, among other things, “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” If only wishing could make it so.
What the new wording fails to consider is that a homogenized government bureaucracy is not necessarily compatible with efficiency and quality. By this point in American history, we should know better. After more than a century of honing its public school system, Florida has managed an on-time graduation rate of just 57%, placing it third from last nationally. Its composite SAT score is the fourth lowest among the states.

Writing Wrongs – Outsourcing Admission Essays

Bess Kargman:

College admissions officers around the country will be reading my application essays this month, essays in which I describe personal aspirations, academic goals — even, in one case, a budding passion for the sitar. What they won’t know is that I actually graduated from college more than a year ago, and that the names attached to these essays are those of my duplicitous clients.

Some Students Prefer Taking Classes Online

Justin Pope:

At some schools, online courses – originally intended for nontraditional students living far from campus – have proved surprisingly popular with on-campus students. A recent study by South Dakota’s Board of Regents found 42 percent of the students enrolled in its distance-education courses weren’t so distant: they were located on campus at the university that was hosting the online course.

Numbers vary depending on the policies of particular colleges, but other schools also have students mixing and matching online and “face-to-face” credits. Motives range from lifestyle to accommodating a job schedule to getting into high-demand courses.

Task Force Insight

Dear Board,
While serving as a member on the Long Range Planning Committee for the West/Memorial Task Force I came to a few insights I would like to share.
Our charge was to seek solutions for the over-crowded schools in Memorial and Leopold attendance area as well as address the low income disparity throughout the area.

  • Overcrowding in Memorial – with current data and projected growth to be over 100% capacity in 5 of the elementary schools I believe the only solution to this problem is a new school. With the purchase of the far west land the board must believe this as well. This should be the number one priority of the growth solution for MMSD. There is space at Toki/Orchard Ridge and a few seats at Muir for this attendance area and additions could be made to Falk, or an update and expansion of Orchard Ridge/Toki could be made, but otherwise there is no room without changing programmatically.
  • Leopold overcrowding is much more complicated, as you know. This huge expansive slice of Madison and the entire city of Fitchburg attendance area has somehow become one elementary school. I do not support an addition to this school for many of the same reasons I did not like two schools on the same land. It is lots of seats in one part of town and you create problems for the future. If Shorewood or Crestwood had 1000 seats we would be busing kids from Fitchburg to that school because that’s where the space is. An addition without a new school means a principal, staff and others at this school are functioning like the other 4 – 5 hundred space schools but with double the students, is that fair to the staff of that school? Would you want to be the principal of 800 – 900 students? I would rather have a school in Fitchburg or south of the Beltline off of 14 to help Leopold and the Allis attendance area that currently is sent to the other side of Monona.
    There is space at Midvale/Lincoln, Randall, Shorewood,and there is 110 seats at Hamilton, 94 seats at Wright, and 118 seats at Cherokee. And of course the strange building of Hoyt that must have ghost or something since no one wants to touch it. There is space in West. The move of Leopold to Chavez is wrong minded since it shifts the West area problem to the overcrowded Memorial area.
    The Elephant in the Room throughout the entire Task Force was Midvale/Lincoln and the perceived lack of quality at that school. There is 75 seats at Lincoln and 62 seats at Midvale this year and each time the suggestion was made to shift students from Leopold to M/L it was met with distaste, (except for two apartment buildings of 30 students) as the memo from the Swan Creek neighborhood (see attachment) was an example. That memo, while it outraged me, is a glaring example why we can’t solve Leopold overcrowding (see memo [pdf] from Midvale Parent Jerry Eykholt to the Swan Creek Parents). On the task force Leopold was sent to Chavez, Randall/Franklin, Thoreau over and under M/L, but somehow those 137 seats at M/L seemed too far away. I think the district is failing Midvale/Lincoln.