Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
State Superintendent Tony Evers announced 132 Wisconsin School of Recognition awards for the 2012-13 academic year, an honor that recognizes success in educating students from low-income families.
“Congratulations on a strong start to the 2012-13 school year,” Evers said. “These schools are being recognized for their work to break the link between poverty and low academic achievement through rigorous programming and attention to student needs. Their efforts align with our Agenda 2017 goals: to improve graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and close college and career readiness gaps.”
Matthew DeFour has more.
Abby Andrietsch, via a kind email:
Happy start to the school year! Our team is more excited than ever about the transformational work being done across Milwaukee.
Today, our 24 STCM partner schools serve over 10,000 students. As I hear the “first day” stories from several of our partner schools, I am reminded of all of the work put in by our coaches and school leaders to prepare: I am reminded of the four days of leadership training STCM held with more than 80 leaders from across the city coming together to focus on excellence in their schools; I am reminded of the more than 135 new urban teachers that came together for a STCM training focused on high-impact instructional practices.
The power of this group is real and the momentum is visible – these are the leaders that will change Milwaukee’s education system and prepare our future leaders. The results we have seen in each of the three STCM pathways (described below) are an early indication of what is possible for our city.
While I am more aware of the challenges facing our students, families, teachers, leaders and schools in Milwaukee, I am more hopeful than ever about what I know is possible. However, we can’t do it alone. It takes engagement from city leaders, educators, non-profit partners, business leaders and foundations. Join us in the movement to support quality across Milwaukee.
Schools That Can Milwaukee
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Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson & Ludger Woessmann
“The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy.” Such was the dire warning recently issued by a task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Chaired by former New York City schools chancellor Joel I. Klein and former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the task force said that the country “will not be able to keep pace–much less lead–globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long.”
The report’s views are well supported by the available evidence. In a 2010 report, only 6 percent of U.S. students were found to be performing at the advanced level in mathematics, a percentage lower than those attained by 30 other countries.ii Nor is the problem limited to top-performing students.
Only 32 percent of 8th- graders in the United States are proficient in mathematics, placing the United States 32nd when ranked among the participating international jurisdictions. Although these facts are discouraging, the United States has made substantial additional financial commitments to K-12 education and introduced a variety of school reforms.
Have these policies begun to help the United States close the international gap?
Progress was far from uniform across the United States, however. Indeed, the variation across states was about as large as the variation among the countries of the world. Maryland won the gold medal by having the steepest overall growth trend. Coming close behind, Florida won the silver medal and Delaware the bronze. The other seven states that rank among the top-10 improvers, all of which outpaced the United States as a whole, are Massachusetts, Louisiana, South Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Virginia.
Iowa shows the slowest rate of improvement. The other four states whose gains were clearly less than those of the United States as a whole, ranked from the bottom, are Maine, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Note, however, that because of nonparticipation in the early NAEP assessments, we cannot estimate an improvement trend for the 1992-2011 time period for nine states–Alaska, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.
Some reflect the failure to manage effectively forces that have been inflating the nationwide higher education bubble. The cost of attending college, greatly outpacing the rate of inflation almost everywhere, has skyrocketed in California: Whereas nationwide tuition and fees at public universities over the last five years have risen on average by 28 percent, the average increase at UC campuses is an astounding 73.1 percent and, at Cal State campuses a still more astounding 83.8 percent. While turning away students and seeking billions for new buildings, California institutions are significantly under-using classroom and laboratory space. And, absent drastic reform, in little more than a decade the Cal State and UC systems are unlikely to be able to meet their obligations to faculty retirement programs.
More menacing to higher education in California is educators’ adoption of curricula, classroom pedagogy, and limitations on free speech that fly in the face of liberal education’s fundamental requirements. These practices also fly in the face of public opinion.
Read the complete PDF report, here.
The study released last week by the Pew Research Center confirms a trend that political economists have been observing for years — the middle class, the 50% of American households earning between $39,000 to $118,000, are now headed backward in income for the first time since the end of World War II.
The bedrock of a stable society is a large and healthy middle class. They not only do the bulk of the work and pay the lion’s share of the taxes, but their level of affluence gives them a personal stake in the survival of existing political and economic orders.
Related: Madison School District 2012-2013 Budget Update; Reduced 3.47% Property Tax Increase due to Increased State Tax Dollar Spending.
More than 40 members of Madison Teachers Inc. attended Tuesday’s board meeting, and executive director John Matthews delivered a letter reminding the board that changes in state law “did not take away the board’s ability to engage in conversation about” benefits and work rules.
Board vice president Marj Passman said she preferred a process where management and employees work out their differences.
“I don’t care what the governor wants,” Passman said. “I’d like to go back to the two equal body process.”
Board member Arlene Silveira said several districts included teachers on the committees that developed their handbooks and “having staff input right upfront prevents difficult ways of getting there.” She also suggested having a board member present at each meeting.
Prior to the meeting, School Board President James Howard said the work group is for administrators so it doesn’t need to include teachers. There will be other advisory groups that will include their input, he said.
Clusty Search: Plateau Bargaining.
“The kids are delighted to be back at school,” James Howard said as he addressed the Board and numerous spectators at tonight’s Board of Education Workshop. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, while they anxiously awaited the real topic of conversation. This would be the Board’s first public conversation on the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Employee Handbook, a handbook that would replace more than sixty years of collective bargaining.
As Howard spoke, I surveyed the crowd that had gathered in the McDaniels Auditorium at the Doyle Administration Building. Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) members stood out in their red, Union T-shirts. They made up more than half of the audience. The AFSCME members were dressed in green, representing custodial, maintenance and food service workers in the district. MMSD administrators, community members and a County Board member were also present.
There was some Pollyannaish talk that the “Guiding Principles” in the process document — especially the first two “1. Improve student learning. As in everything we do, the first question and the top priority is student learning. How does what we are considering impact students? 2. Empower staff to do their best work. How does this impact teachers and staff? Does it help or hinder them in doing their jobs effectively?” — would be sufficient (a little more below on this), but there seemed to be a consensus that at very least the committee should present some options to the Board. That’s another reason to have an inclusive committee; to get better options.
A quick aside on the “Guiding Principals” and related thoughts and then back to the Board’s role. It is all well and good to say that student learning is or should be primary in just about everything, but it is also false and serves to marginalize staff. I’ve long said that the interests of teachers align with the interests of students and the district by about 95% and yes “student learning” is the prime interest. But staff are adults, with mortgages, families to support, loans to pay, relationships to cultivate and maintain, …They are not and should not be people who put student learning above the their own well being. To even contemplate that they should be is disrespectful. That’s why we hear the “All about the students” meme from the anti-teacher/anti-union reform crowd. It sound good, but it is wrong. Think about it, did the people negotiating a contract on behalf of Interim Superintendent Belmore put “student learning at the top of their list? Of course not, and they shouldn’t have.
Madison Teachers’, Inc. 65K PDF, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:
Members of MTI’s Board of Directors and Union staff greeted the District’s newly hired teachers at New Teacher Orientation on Monday. There are 250 new members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit.
MTI Executive Director John Matthews addressed the District’s new teachers during their Tuesday session. In doing so, Matthews provided a brief history of the Union, its reputation of negotiating outstanding Collective Bargaining Agreements which provide both employment security and economic security, and in explaining the threat to both, given Act 10, said all MTI members would need to pull together to preserve the Madison Metropolitan School District as a quality place to teach.
Matthews told the new hires that these benefits and rights, along with MTI’s action to assure due process and workplace justice, has earned MTI the reputation of being one of the best Unions in the country. To illustrate the magnitude of MTI’s accomplishments over the years, Matthews told about school board policy mandating female teachers, through the early 1970’s, having to advise their principal “immediately upon becoming pregnant”, and being obligated to resign when the pregnancy “began showing.” As a result of MTI’s accomplishments, such antiquated, degrading policies are history, he said.
Matthews also cited MTI’s precedent setting accomplishments in advancing employee rights regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, and negotiating such things as the school calendar and health insurance. Until the early 1970’s, the school calendar only accommodated Christian holidays. MTI’s litigation expanded the benefit to cover all religions.
Continue the Awareness, Continue the Protest, Wear Red for Education
Since February, 2011, MTI members have been tirelessly protesting and working to end the disastrous impact on public sector workers of Governor Scott Walker’s union busting destructive budget. The most important reasons for resistance vary from one union member to another and include: the Legislation jeopardizes children’s future and the viability of public education and other public services; its provisions are dishonest and immoral; they constitute an attack on Wisconsin’s working-class and middle-class values; they ask for no shared sacrifice from the wealthy or profitable corporations.
Payroll checks for all public employees have been substantially lessened because of Act 10, causing financial hardship for many families. Walker’s Law forces all public employees to pay 50% of retirement contributions, even though MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District have agreed as part of one’s total compensation package dating to the early 1970’s, that the District would pay 100% of the contribution and many have increased contributions for health insurance.
MTI leaders are working with other public sector union leaders across Wisconsin to reverse this disastrous legislation.
Ready, Set, Goal Conferences
As previously reported in MTI Solidarity!, the Ready, Set Goal (RSG) memorandum has been amended, as a result of grievance mediation.
The Memorandum of Understanding between MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District, which governs RSG Conferences has been amended to include the following parameters which apply, when determining the amount of compensation due a teacher for holding RSG Conferences during times other than scheduled school day(s)/ hours:
- Teachers receive up to 15 minutes per student for conference preparation.
- Teachers receive up to 30 minutes for each conference held.
- Teachers are compensated for up to two parent “no shows” per student, at 30 minutes per scheduled conference. Teachers are not obligated to schedule a RSG conference after there have been two parent “no shows”. However, a teacher will be compensated pursuant to Section 2b (second bullet above), if the teacher thereafter holds a RSG conference for the student.
- Compensation will continue to include traveling to/from homes of parents, or other mutually agreed upon meeting place(s), or traveling to/from school if the conferences are not at a time adjacent to the Contract day. Mileage shall be paid in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and reasonable expenses for refreshments shall be reimbursed.
The full RSG agreement is located on MTI’s website (www.madisonteachers.org). Questions can be directed to Assistant Director Eve Degen at MTI (257-4091 or email@example.com).
The later students enter Madison schools, the less likely they are to graduate on time and score well on state tests, according to district data Mayor Paul Soglin requested this year. The data do not take into account other variables connected to achievement such as race and income (bold added).
“Maybe we shouldn’t be as critical of the system in holding the district responsible for the failure of a 14-year-old who’s only been here a year and is reading at a seventh-grade level,” Soglin said. “If there is a difference, maybe it shows that some intense work should be done with kids upon arrival.”
I hope that the District evaluates the data in more depth…
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:
Similarly, Wisconsin is now in the process of raising its academic standards and its ability to accurately gauge student, teacher and school performance.
This is a good thing, too — even though ratings for many students and some schools will fall when initially put into place. It’s not that students will be learning less. It’s that more rigorous instruction and assessments are coming on board.
Our students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve this more accurate picture of progress toward higher goals — the ones Wisconsin will need to meet to succeed in the knowledge-based, highly competitive global economy.
Related: wisconsin2.org”: and Madison MAP Testing Shows They are Falling Short Too.
September 2012 Q&A School Board News; www.asbj.com
Will Fitzhugh is a great believer in the educational power of the high school research paper. In fact, he’s such a fan that he founded The Concord Review in 1987 to publish student research papers and highlight the academic quality of their work.
But his mission is a bit tougher these days. In 2002, he conducted a study of high school history teachers and discovered that, although nearly all of them said a term paper was a good idea, 62 percent never assigned a 12-page paper–and 27 percent never assigned an eight-page paper.
Page numbers aren’t the only measure of a writing project, but the consensus is that the rigor of high school research papers hasn’t improved over the years. And that means that–outside of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses–very few students are tested by this kind of rigorous writing project.
That’s not a good trend, and Fitzhugh champions the idea that school policymakers should bring back the practice of assigning serious research papers to high school students. He encourages schools to adopt his Paper Per Year Plan©, which calls on schools to assign research papers that require students to write one more page, with one more source, for every grade of schooling. Even a first-grader should be writing one-page papers with one source listed.
Recently, Fitzhugh shared his thoughts on the poor showing of high school writing projects with ASBJ Senior Editor Del Stover.
Why should it matter if students are writing lengthy term papers?
“Two great things about serious research papers: They ask for a lot of reading, and as a result, the student learns a lot about something. This encourages students to believe that, through their own efforts for the most part, they can learn about other things in the future. In addition, a serious research paper can help them keep out of remedial reading and writing classes at college.”
To engage students, some educators are allowing students to communicate through a variety of media. Is this innovative–or a mistake?
“This is a mistake by teachers desperate to pander to student interests instead of requiring them to do the hard work essential to their education. When the Business Roundtable companies spend $3 billion-plus each year on remedial writing courses for their employees–hourly and salaried, current and new–they do not have them write blogs, read comic books, or enjoy PowerPoint presentations. That would waste their money and the time of students, and it wouldn’t accomplish the remedial writing tasks.”
Is the term paper really dead? You’re still publishing term papers in your quarterly, so you must still be seeing teachers–and students–who are rising to the highest standards?
“The papers I have been getting continue to impress me. I could tell you stories of students who spend months on their submissions to The Concord Review and then send me an Emerson Prize-winning 15,000-word paper. Many of these students are going well beyond the expectations and standards of their schools because they seek to be published. But, as I say, for most students, they are never asked even to try a serious history research paper.
In general, it is safe to say that all U.S. public high schools are unlikely to assign rigorous term papers, and the kids suffer accordingly.”
What advice can you offer to school board members and administrators as they struggle to raise student skills in reading and writing?
“The California State College System reports that 47 percent of their freshmen are in remedial reading courses, and in a survey of college professors by The Chronicle of Higher Education, 90 percent of them said their students are not very well prepared in reading or writing, or in doing research.
So school board members should be aware of how poorly we are preparing our kids in nonfiction reading and academic expository writing–and they should ask their superintendents what can be done about that.
I’ve argued that, if reading and writing is a serious skill that kids need, then we have to decide if we are willing to invest [in this effort]. Kids are spending three or four hours of time on homework a week and 54 hours on entertainment. It’s not going to kill them to spend four more hours a week on a paper.”
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review 
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes 
National Writing Board 
TCR Institute 
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
Erin Richards, via a kind reader’s email:
The dropping of the master’s bump in many districts is also raising new questions about what kind of outside training is relevant to help teachers improve outcomes with their students, and what those teachers – who are already taking home less pay by contributing more to their benefits – will consider to be worth the investment.
Wauwatosa East High School government teacher Ann Herrera Ward is one educator puzzled by the turning tide on advanced degrees.
Ward earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before working in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven years, then got on the road to a teaching license through Marquette University, where she got a master’s in instructional leadership.
Entering her 20th year as a teacher, she’s finishing her dissertation for her doctorate degree: a study of how kids learn about elections and politics by discussing the matters in school and at home.
Al Jazeera English, via Matt Diaz:
There is more evidence of the growing wealth gap in the US: A new report says that the number of people living in poverty could be at its highest level in nearly half a century. So how can the US government help its least fortunate?
In 2010, one in six Americans were considered poor. That is more than 47 million people living on less than $10,500 per year.
“We are creating poverty in this country …. If you are unemployed, employers are not going to want to hire you because you are unemployed. If your credit rating is bad, nobody is going to want to hire you. It’s like we have a system for pushing people who begin to slide down further and further.”
– Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of the book Nickel and Dimed
The official government numbers on poverty in 2011 will be released just weeks ahead of the November presidential elections.
But an associated press survey of economists and think tanks says that the number of poor Americans could reach 15.7 per cent, making it the highest level since the 1960’s.
Oconomowoc High School.
They have reduced the teaching staff and increased the workload for many teachers (giving them a boost in pay).
But what really interests me is a key to their plan: Making fundamental changes in the dynamic of education.
The goal is that a lot of the presentation of lectures and other instruction will come via video and the Internet. Education will be more customized for students, students will take more responsibility for their learning, and teachers will do more coaching, mentoring, monitoring.
There’s a lot of ferment in education over changes such as these. Oconomowoc will be an important test case.
Related: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
The Madison School District Administration:
Guiding Principles: Superintendent
- Improve student learning. As in everything we do, the first question and the top priority is student learning. How does what we are considering impact students?
- Empower staff to do their best work. How does this impact teachers and staff? Does it help or hinder them in doing their jobs effectively?
- Strategically align use of resources. Does this align with our strategic plan and achievement gap plan? Will it allow us to implement, measure, and improve that work? Is it financially responsible?
- Avoid redundancies and create consistencies. Are pieces of the handbook already outlined in state law or Board policy or other mandates?
- Consider incremental change. Can we work toward a larger goal through incremental steps?
- Respectful discussion.
I will be surprised if the school District’s handbook differs materially from the current 182 page union contract. Some Districts will think very differently, while most will, I suspect continue business as usual.
The Last Psychiatrist:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University is investigating what it calls an “unprecedented” case of cheating. College officials say around 125 students may have shared answers and plagiarized on a [Introduction To Congress] final exam.
What a scandal that such a thing would happen at Harvard! “Academic integrity issues are a bedrock of the educational mission.” And etc.
Before everyone rushes to their predetermined sides, can we ask why, when there are cheating scandals, they are almost always in introductory classes? When the stakes are lowest?
75% of the students in these kind of courses get As and Bs because of Grade Inflation. I’d put big money down that if I used a crayon to draw an elephant and a donkey I’d get at least a B+ with the margin comment, “Interesting take, could you elaborate?”
And yet the students here felt compelled to cheat. Take a minute away from your self-righteousness and put yourself in their shoes. Did they not think they could get an A on their own? Or…. is “cheating” the only way to create the kind of answer that the professor wants?
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:
We are now projected to receive an additional $11.8 million in state aid, but because of the state revenue limit, we only have the authority to increase our spending by $8.1 million. That means that $3.7 million of our projected $11.8 million increase in state aid must be used to shift spending off of the property tax levy. This shift results in a property tax increase of 3.47%, which is down from the original increase of 4.95% that you approved in the preliminary budget.
In other words, we will immediately deliver $3.7 million or nearly 1.5% in property tax relief for our constituents.
The $376,200,000 2012-2013 Madison School District budget spends $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students.
The Legislative Audit Bureau’s (LAB) review of the final year of the state-authorized five year longitudinal study of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) is once again bringing the never-ending debate on the efficacy of school choice into the public discourse.
At issue is the LAB’s conclusion that statistically significant test score gains for MPCP pupils in the final year of the study may be in part attributed to the introduction of universal Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) testing for all MPCP pupils. There is research showing mandatory testing can create a bump in test scores. Hence, LAB states the SCDP finding on reading gains is not conclusive.
The LAB analysis is news only if you did not read the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) studies when they were released earlier this year. The SCDP states clearly: “There is some evidence that the larger achievement growth of the MPCP students that we observe is attributable to the introduction of the accountability policy.” In other words, after five years we know MPCP and MPS students experience similar gains in math scores, and statistically significant gains in reading scores that may or may not be caused by the change in testing policy.
Some perspective. Even statistically significant gains are not necessarily all that substantively significant. A slightly higher reading score is not going to make or break the future of a child. It is important to understand what the SCDP study actually set out to accomplish. It was a program evaluation designed to determine how the MPCP impacted Milwaukee students. Accordingly, over the course of the study the public learned an almost overwhelming amount about a program that was once criticized for being understudied. The public now knows:
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:
The initial TAG Plan, created by a variety of stakeholders including teachers, administrators, parents, and community members was approved by the Board of Education on August 27, 2009, and revised and approved on December 13, 2010. The Department of Public Instruction determined that the MMSD TAG Department was out of compliance at the end of May 2011. In June 2011, the current coordinator assumed duties and a new TAG Plan was written to address issues of noncompliance; the plan was approved by the BOE on August 8, 2011. An extension of one year was granted to MMSD to become compliant. The TAG End-of-Year document uses the framework of the original plan and incorporates information that addresses compliance issues as outlined in the 2011 TAG Plan. DPI has indicated that the audit will take place in the last half of September, 2012.
In the letter to Mr. Howard (August 14, 2012), DPI requested additional documentation be submitted to the DPI no later than September 7. The TAG Plan is a major piece of this documentation.
Related: Notes and links on the parent talented & gifted complaint.
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore:
MAP often shows substantial declines in the percent of students identified as proficient or advanced as compared to past WKCE scores. This does not reflect a change in students’ abilities, but rather reflects a change to higher standards. MMSD’s WKCE results have been consistent for years.
- With 2011-12 being the first year that MMSD administered MAP, great caution must be exercised to avoid over-interpretation of results. One of the advantages of MAP is the ability to measure growth, and 2011-12 represent only a single data point. Plans for the immediate future include rigorous statistical analysis that will include significance tests to focus in on areas of excellence and possible concern.
- Student proficiencies are lower as measured by MAP than Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Exam (WKCE). This is likely due to MAP being a more difficult and rigorous assessment than WKCE. MAP is also normed at the national level. MMSD has largely done well against other Wisconsin districts, but its results are not as strong when compared nationally.
Madison recently completed and is now implementing “an ambitious and innovative plan to improve student achievement and close gaps.” The district had discussed applying for Race to the Top funds in recent weeks, but decided the timing wasn’t right, Belmore told the board.
“A year or two from now, we feel MMSD would be poised to take advantage of an opportunity like this one and make a competitive case,” Belmore wrote to the board. “But based on our implementation time line, we feel this grant does not come at the right time for our district. This year, we will be disciplined in focusing our internal resources on effectively implementing our achievement gap plan and making improvements for all students.”
Related: Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay.
(CNN) — In America, summer holds a special place in our hearts: lazy afternoons, camping at the lake, warm evenings gazing at the moon. For children, especially, summer can unleash the free flow of discovery. For older children, summer often brings their first job.
But this idyllic picture masks the reality that for too many children, particularly those from low-income families, languid summers can be educationally detrimental, and for families in which both parents work, summers are a logistical nightmare.
Considerable research shows that the primary reason the achievement gap between poor children and their more affluent peers widens over the course of their school careers is the long break in learning over the summer. It’s called summer slide.
National Center on Time & Learning
School districts are increasingly relying on fancy technology to prevent students from skipping class in order to do important things like fight evil entities emerging from the Hellmouth located underneath the school library. Last May, San Antonio’s Northside Independent School district announced they would be using RFID-tagged student ID cards to track students on school campuses and buses. This school year, the Austin Independent School District (AISD) is introducing a global positioning system (GPS) device to track students’ whereabouts.
KXAN reports that this GPS device, which resembles a cellphone, will be given to up to 1,700 students with low attendance rates in eight Austin high schools. The students will use this device to check-in with mentors several times a day. Additionally, these mentors will call the students a few times a week to discuss the latest happenings in school.
Austin will spend $724,200,000 for 86,697 students ($8,353/student). The 2011-2012 Madison school district budget spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student), or 43% more than Austin.