Keep an eye on math, board tells Rainwater

The Madison School Board has given Superintendent Art Rainwater a set of specific orders to accomplish in the coming year, including several directives to take an in-depth look at the district’s entire math curriculum.
In the past several years, area math educators have expressed concern about the effectiveness of the Madison district’s reliance on a reform math curriculum, which emphasizes word-based problem-solving.
Another goal board members mandated for the superintendent for next year is that he collaborate with them and other advisers on a plan to tell community members why parents and guardians should send their children to Madison public schools.
In addition, the board will evaluate the administration on providing information in a clear, accurate, concise and timely manner.
By Susan Troller, The Capital Times, November 21, 2006

A fourth goal requires the district management to implement an intern program to encourage people of color and other historically underrepresented groups to consider a broad range of administrative jobs in the district.
“I certainly accept and support these four good goals,” Rainwater said in an interview this morning. “Like every school year, when you have limited resources, 25,000 students to educate and you want them all to learn, you have many, many things on your plate.”
He added that there have been questions in the past about the math curriculum and that he welcomes the opportunity to bring together experts in math and math education to really look at how local students are doing in this critical subject.
In the past, School Board member Ruth Robarts, chair of the Human Relations Committee, has been critical of the administration. She welcomed the new goals for the administration.
“As a board, I think we will be in a much more favorable position to make decisions,” she said. “I think this is what the public and the community expect from us.”
In addition to new performance goals, the School Board gave Rainwater a review of his 2005-06 performance. Board members rated him either “strong” or “proficient” in the categories of district management, board relations, community communications, and staff supervision and evaluation.
In the category of professional growth and development, board members unanimously gave Rainwater a strong rating. Other rating categories include: exemplary, improvement needed and unsatisfactory.
Delay on high school courses: A presentation on the redesign of Madison’s high school curriculum scheduled for next week’s School Board meeting has been scrapped for the immediate future, School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. confirmed late this morning.
“We’ll hold off on changes until we get a better feel for how the process will work,” Winston said.
Winston, other School Board members and members of the administration met this morning to discuss high school curriculum proposals, including changes in accelerated classes for freshmen and sophomores at East High.
Those changes were presented last week by Principal Alan Harris, and have drawn fire from students and parents, who have complained there was not enough opportunity for community input.
“I think we need a more inclusive process,” Winston said.
Winston added that he thought all areas of the district’s high school redesign might be reconsidered, including La Follette High School’s four-block scheduling system and the controversial, undifferentiated core English program for grades 9 and 10 at West High.