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Henry Tyson Madison Talk

Henry Tyson has run Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Lutheran School for the past 20 years. St. Marcus serves over 1000 predominantly low-income, African-American students on Milwaukee’s northside and is widely recognized as a leading voucher school in Milwaukee. During this presentation, Henry will describe the school’s successes, failures, challenges and opportunities. He will also explore America’s historic educational ideals, evaluate progress to achieving those ideals, and propose actions that could improve outcomes particularly for low-income students in America’s largest cities.

mp3 audio

machine generated transcript pdf


Much more on Henry Tyson, here.

I invited a number of Madison people to this event, including Zach Brandon, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Joe Gothard along with The Simpson Street Free Press, Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal.

Henry Tyson charted unlikely path to Milwaukee education debates

Bill Glauber

“I’m a conformist,” said Henry Tyson, superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School. “I like rules and I like order.”

To hear that Tyson considers himself a conformist is a surprise, given his background and his mission.

How this British-born educator came to Milwaukee is the stuff of chance, circumstance and an intense personal faith to live, work and educate children in the inner city.

Tyson’s ability to shake up the education establishment in recent years has made him a target of critics, who see him as an interloper.

Even those who are not intimately involved in the hothouse of education politics in Milwaukee may have heard of Tyson’s so-far unsuccessful quest to buy empty Milwaukee Public Schools buildings and expand the private voucher school he oversees.

On Friday, St. Marcus announced a deal to lease space for an early childhood education center at a non-MPS building, the Aurora Weier Educational Center building at 2669 N. Richards St.

The move marks a truce, of sorts. Yet the fight likely isn’t over. For his part, Tyson has been stung by criticism.

“What absolutely shocked me is that I became the nemesis of public education,” Tyson said. “Like I have always articulated, we will not move this city forward enough, or at least significantly, until the fighting stops.”

Last week, the fall term began at St. Marcus’ main campus at 2215 N. Palmer St. The sparkling facility buzzed with the energy of 730 students in grades K-8 and more than 100 staff. Nearly all of those students — 93% — attend on a taxpayer-paid voucher. The student body is 89% African-American, Tyson said.

Listen to an interview with Henry Tyson.

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School

Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school recently talked with me [Transcript | mp3 audio] about his fascinating personal and professional education experience. St. Marcus is one of, if not the most successful scholarship schools in Milwaukee.
Henry discussed student, parent and teacher expectations, including an interesting program to educate and involve parents known as “Thankful Thursdays”. He further described their growth plans, specifically, the methods they are following to replicate the organization. In addition, I learned that St. Marcus tracks their students for 8 years after 8th grade graduation.
Finally, Henry discussed special education and their financial model, roughly $7,800/student annually of which $6,400 arrives from State of Wisconsin taxpayers in the form of a voucher. The remainder via local fundraising and church support.
He is quite bullish on the future of education in Milwaukee. I agree that in 15 to 20 years, Milwaukee’s education environment will be much, much improved. High expectations are of course critical to these improvements.
I appreciate the time Henry took to visit.

Milwaukee k-12 Superintendent resigns

AJ Bayatpour

Superintendent Keith Posley has resigned.

Rory Linnane:

“We can’t keep things the way they are now, and that includes leadership,” Leonard said. “We need to make some significant changes. It’s time to clean things up.”

Board member Missy Zombor was absent but had attended the closed session meeting virtually before having trouble connecting to the virtual platform. She told the Journal Sentinel she supported the board’s decision to accept Posley’s resignation.


More. And. Thread.


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed legislationthat would break up the taxpayer funded Milwaukee school district into four smaller districts. Mulligans are worth a look.


Deeper dive: Henry Tyson’s recent Madison talk.

Online Systems and the Madison School District’s Remote Capabilities/Results (infinite Campus)

The lengthy 2020-2021 remote experience that Madison’s K-12 students endured made me wonder how the taxpayer funded school district is performing with online services.

I was part of a group that reviewed the District’s acquisition of “Infinite Campus” software in the 2000’s. Having been through many software implementations, I asked the District’s then IT/Chief Information Officer if teachers and staff would be required to use this system, as part of their day to day jobs?


I asked how they planned to successfully implement the system?

“with great care”.

I then suggested that they forego the purchase and not spend the money (million$ over time) if the system was not made part of everyone’s job.

How did it go?

2010 Madison School District Usage Report. More.

2012 Infinite Campus Usage Referendum.

2012 Madison Teachers, Inc:

As the District contemplates consequences for those teachers who are not using Infinite Campus, MTI has heard from several members about the difficulty in meeting this District expectation.

2013: Infinite Campus To Cover Wisconsin? DPI Intends to Proceed

Fast forward to 2020. I sent an open records request to the Madison School District on 28 July 2020 requesting the following:

Number of distinct teachers who login daily, weekly and monthly

Number of assignments created weekly

Number of report cards created and updated weekly

Number of distinct parents who login daily, weekly and monthly

Number of distinct students who login daily, weekly and monthly

Total Infinite Campus license, hosting and maintenance costs (2019-2020)

I received the following on 14 September 2021, from Mankah Mitchell:

Number of distinct teachers who login daily, weekly and monthly

  • On average, 1,558 unique staff members logged in to Infinite Campus each day in the 2019-20 school year in MMSD.
  • On average, 2,885 unique staff members logged in to Infinite Campus each week in the 2019-20 school year in MMSD.
  • On average, 3,527 unique staff members logged in to Infinite Campus each month in the 2019-20 school year in MMSD.

Number of assignments created weekly

MMSD teachers created a total of 236,650 assignments in Infinite Campus during the 2019-20 school year. MMSD teachers created an average of 6,396 assignments per week in Infinite Campus.

Number of report cards created and updated weekly

  • (In the 2019-20 school year…)13,502 elementary (4K-5th grade) students received 2 report cards each, for an estimated total of 27,004 Elementary report cards.
  • 5,486 middle school students received 2 report cards each, for an estimated total of 10,972 report cards. In some cases, students also received quarterly progress reports, totaling a maximum possible count of 21,944 quarterly progress reports and report cards combined.
  • 7,891 high school students received 2 report cards each, for an estimated total of 15,782 report cards. In some cases, students also received quarterly progress reports, totaling a maximum possible count of 31,564 quarterly progress reports and report cards combined.

Number of distinct parents who login daily, weekly and monthly

  • On average, 42 unique parents logged in to Infinite Campus each day in the 2019-20 school year.
  • On average, 133 unique parents logged in to Infinite Campus each week in the 2019-20 school year.
  • On average, 256 unique parents logged in to Infinite Campus each month in the 2019-20 school year.

Number of distinct students who login daily, weekly and monthly

  • On average, 2,671 unique students logged in to Infinite Campus each day in the 2019-20 school year.
  • On average, 6,608 unique students logged in to Infinite Campus each week in the 2019-20 school year.
  • On average, 9,295 unique students logged in to Infinite Campus each month in the 2019-20 school year.

Total Infinite Campus license, hosting and maintenance costs (2019-2020)

MMSD spent a total of $149,140.92 on Infinite Campus in the 2019-2020 school year.

## The linked pdf report, includes some interesting notes, as well.

I remain interested in this topic for several reasons:

  • I was part of the original review group, and had implementation experience.
  • I was and am very concerned about the lack of (consistent) pervasive online learning experiences in our very well taxpayer funded K-12 system, amidst long term, disastrous reading results.
  • The inability to do this, effectively, while spending millions reflects much larger organizational challenges.
  • The imposition of remote learning on our student population – while many other districts managed to stay in person – has long term consequences for all of us.
  • A “successful” implementation of a system such as Infinite Campus would have placed everyone in a much better position for the events of 2020-2021.
  • ** I do not mean to suggest that Infinite Campus is the be all/end all. Rather, it is the system we have spent millions on….
  • ***** I spoke recently with someone familiar with large scale healthcare software implementations. One of the largest vendors conducts a review with clients on the tools they use, sort of use and don’t use along with the costs thereof (and any 3rd party services that may or may not be useful). With respect to Madison, perhaps it is time to rethink many things….

Related (2011): On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes) [rejected].

And, my 2012 conversation with Henry Tyson.

Study: Newark’s large charter school networks give students a big boost. Other charters, not so much.

Patrick Wall:

Newark’s largest charter school networks give students a big bump in their test scores, while other charter schools are far less effective at boosting scores, a new study finds.

Students who enrolled at schools run by the city’s two largest charter operators — KIPP and Uncommon Schools — saw large and lasting gains on their test scores, according to the analysis of data from 2014 to 2018. But students who attended a different set of charter schools, on average, got a much smaller boost.

The study by the Manhattan Institute adds to previous research showing that Newark’s charter schools, which educate more than a third of the city’s public-school students, collectively raise students’ test scores. But the analysis also sheds new light on the wide variation within Newark’s large charter sector, showing that the big charter school networks with the most students drive the sector’s positive results.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district has long resisted parent and student choice, despite spending far more than most and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Milwaukee and many other cities offer extensive parent and student choice. An interview with Henry Tyson, Superintendent of the inner city St. Marcus elementary school.

To ‘Get Reading Right,’ We Need To Talk About What Teachers Actually Do

Natalie Wexler:

In recent months, thanks largely to journalist Emily Hanford, it’s become clear that the prevailing approach to teaching kids how to decipher words isn’t backed by evidence. An abundance of research shows that many children—perhaps most—won’t learn to “decode” written text unless they get systematic instruction in phonics. As Hanford has shown, teachers may think they’re teaching phonics, but many also encourage children to guess at words from pictures or context. The result is that many never learn to sound out words—and in later years, when they encounter more difficult text, they hit a wall.

Hanford’s work has drawn well-deserved attention. And recently Education Week, a prominent national publication, released a special issue called “Getting Reading Right” that reveals, among other disturbing findings, that 75% of teachers say they encourage students to guess when they come to a word they don’t know.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Mission vs. Organization: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

While decades pass, with no substantive change in Madison’s reading results (despite substantial spending increases), perhaps we might learn from a successful inner city Milwaukee institution: Henry Tyson’s St. Marcus School.

More, here.

Commentary on Betsy DeVos Visit to a Milwaukee Voucher School

Related: Mission vs Organization. Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.”

An interview with St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson.

Taxpayer supported K-12 school districts substantially outspend voucher schools. Madison’s $18-20K per student is more than double typical voucher school taxpayer support.

Milwaukee’s Public School Barricade

Wall Street Journal:

We wrote in 2015 about how MPS blocked charter and private school purchases of empty school buildings, which prevented high-performing schools like St. Marcus Lutheran from expanding. The state legislature then passed a law ordering the city and school district to sell vacant public school buildings.

Well, what do you know, the district still hasn’t sold a single vacant building to other schools despite 13 letters of interest from private and charter operators for 11 vacant buildings, according to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. Following protests from the teachers’ union, a local zoning board denied a bid by Right Step, a private school for children expelled from Milwaukee public schools. The city hasn’t even classified many unused buildings as “vacant.”

Milwaukee’s recalcitrance is denying thousands of students a better education—St. Marcus Lutheran alone has 264 students on its wait list—while draining tax dollars. Annual utility bills for vacant buildings cost $1 million, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty calculates that the district could recover $5 million from selling its unoccupied real estate.

Related: a conversation with Henry Tyson.

Lessons From The Nation’s Oldest Voucher Program

Claudio Sanchez:

The school doesn’t offer transportation, so Henry Tyson, the man who runs St. Marcus, is known to shuttle kids to and from school whenever their parents can’t. This morning, he is on his way to pick up a little boy named Jeremiah. Tyson says Jeremiah is a talented child who lives in a rough neighborhood where kids often get lost.

“It’s one of the great tragedies in a city like this,” says Tyson. “How do you give kids a vision for their future especially when they’re growing up in these tough, tough neighborhoods.”

Margaret Katherine has a grandson at St. Marcus. The voucher that he uses was an opportunity she says she couldn’t pass up.

“You better grab it while you can,” she says, “because once it’s gone, you’re gonna be like me.”

Katherine says not a day goes by that she doesn’t regret dropping out of school, not learning how to read or write properly. “I don’t want my child to be lost.”

Much more on Henry Tyson.

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards:

Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t supposed to provide just a cheaper education. They were supposed to provide a better one.

CREATED IN 1990 BY A COALITION of black parents and school-reform advocates with the blessing of a Republican governor, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program aimed to allow poor parents to withdraw their children from public schools and send them to higher-performing private schools they probably couldn’t otherwise afford.

Today, a little under a third of Milwaukee’s school-age population attends voucher schools. Overall, test-score outcomes for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the private voucher schools are remarkably low, and remarkably similar: On the latest state tests, about 80 percent of children in both sectors were not proficient in English and about 85 percent were not proficient in math. The voucher high schools, however, posted slightly higher 11th-grade ACT scores this year than Milwaukee Public Schools: a 17.5 composite, compared with the district’s 16.5.

The voucher program is not to blame for all of that, of course, but some wonder why the major reform hasn’t made more of a difference. The program has bolstered some decent religious schools—mostly Catholic and Lutheran—which would have never maintained a presence in the inner city serving poor children without taxpayer assistance. It’s helped to incubate a couple of private schools that eventually became high-performing charter schools. But it’s extended the same life raft to some abysmally performing schools that parents continue to choose for a variety of reasons besides academic performance. And it’s kept afloat a great number of mediocre programs.

Research shows Milwaukee parents have listed small class sizes and school safety among their top reasons for choosing a voucher school. Safety per se doesn’t equal educational excellence, but parents’ perceptions of safety can drive their decision-making. But are those perceptions accurate? Advocacy group School Choice Wisconsin examined police-call data for Milwaukee’s public and voucher schools in recent years and determined voucher schools to have proportionally fewer requests for assistance, but voucher schools also serve a disproportionately small number of students in high school, where many of the most serious school incidents warranting police attention occur. Objective data on school safety are hard to come by without records of incident reports, suspensions, and expulsions.

Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School, a popular and high-performing voucher school that now serves children in Milwaukee’s central city, has long been frustrated at the lack of state and local political attention given to policies that would help expand high-performing programs and eliminate low-performing ones.

“I am intensely frustrated by the voucher schools that are chronically underperforming over a long period of time,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, any school that has been open three years or more that is under 5 percent proficiency should close, whether that’s a public school, charter school, or voucher school.”

Milwaukee has failed to develop such a mechanism in part because many choice advocates don’t want to give more power to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which they do not believe is an objective overseer. Other advocates refuse to acknowledge that parent choice alone will not always raise the quality of the market.

“What we need to do is to toil every day and keep pushing for that Berlin Wall moment,” says Kevin Chavous, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and education-reform advocate who supported the launch of the federally funded D.C. voucher program. Chavous is a founding board member of the AFC, and a tall African American with piercing blue-gray eyes and an industrious nature—he’s written entire books on education reform during long-distance flights. He believes that school choice can and will become the dominant method of delivering educational opportunity in America.

“We’re close to that tipping point,” he said in May 2016 during AFC’s annual conference at National Harbor, a resort hugging the Potomac River just south of D.C.

It’s important to remember that private-school choice is still just a tiny sliver of the pie when it comes to publicly funded education in America. Approximately 50 million children attend public schools run by school districts. About 2.5 million attend public charter schools. And only around 400,000 attend private schools with the help of voucher, tax-credit scholarship, or education-savings account, according to EdChoice. But substantial jumps could be around the corner, especially as the programs continue to expand from targeting solely low-income children to being open to all.

A useful article. Links and detailed spending comparisons would be useful. Madison currently spends around $18k per student, far ahove the antional average. Similar achievement at less than half the cost of traditional K-12 organs is worth exploration, perhaps offering opportunities to help students in the greatest need, such as many in Madison.

St. Marcus Lutheran School celebrates groundbreaking for a second campus expansion

Milwaukee NNS:

We are thrilled to be breaking ground to expand the North Campus, giving us the space we urgently need for both our students and to serve the surrounding community,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ Superintendent. “The outpouring of support from individual donors, foundations, community partners and corporations in the community has been a true blessing. This expansion allows St. Marcus to continue to grow its reach and respond to parent’s demands for a high-quality education for their children. Thank you to everyone who has supported St. Marcus scholars and made their success possible.”

The ceremony featured a student-centered welcome as 160 students greeted guests with a morning assembly singing “He knows my name” and “Underneath the shining star” and the school’s theme poem, Be Strong. Superintendent Henry Tyson addressed attendees and spoke about the struggles within the City of Milwaukee and the need to continue to grow so that as many students as possible receive a high-quality education. Tyson acknowledged and thanked all those who made the expansion possible starting with parents, staff, individual donors and foundation/corporate representatives in attendance. Attendees included representatives from the Fleck Foundation, Bradley Foundation, Lakeview Foundation, Siebert Lutheran Foundation, Sommer’s Automotive, Schools That Can Milwaukee, PAVE, Park Bank, Partnership Bank, Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Rinka Chung Architecture and Catalyst Construction.

Henry Tyson interview.

Pro Choice: Vouchers, per student spending and achievement

The Economist:

This is not the end of the story for vouchers, however. In both Milwaukee and Washington, voucher schemes get similar results to the public schools but with much less money. Under the DC scheme, each voucher is worth $8,500 a year, compared with $17,500 to educate a child in the public school system. In Milwaukee the difference is smaller but still amounts to several thousand dollars. Another consistent finding from voucher schemes is that parents like being given a choice, which explains why vouchers, once granted, are hard to take away.

Though Milwaukee’s experience overall has been mixed it still has lessons for elsewhere. If one includes private schools, charter schools and open enrolment at public schools (which means parents may enroll their children in a school that is not in the neighbourhood where they live), around 40% of parents in Milwaukee exercise some kind of choice over their children’s education, an unusually high share. With so much competition, it is hard for any school to grow complacent. There are good public, private and charter schools and bad ones, too. Some private schools do very well with poor black and Hispanic children, others fail them and yet manage to stay in business, which suggests that even with lots of parents choosing there is a need for an authority than can close the bad schools down.

The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

A focus on adult employment.

Already a friend to charter schools, Wisconsin could see more growth under budget proposal; one size fits all continues in Madison

Molly Beck:

“That charter authorizer is without accountability, if you will, to the voter in any way,” she said. “And so why would we want to do that? That’s what I would like explained to me. Why would that be a good thing for the state of Wisconsin? Honestly, I can’t fathom what the justification would be other than if I’m one of the big chains (of charter schools) that wants leverage into Wisconsin.”

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes wrote against the proposal on his education blog last week, saying the proposal allows new authorizers to “operate with a free hand in the state’s largest urban areas.”

Walker included a similar proposal in his 2013-15 budget but it was pulled out. Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, also has proposed similar legislation in the past. She said in an interview Tuesday that more communities than Milwaukee and Racine should have the option of an independent charter school.

She pointed to Madison Preparatory Academy, an independent charter school proposed by the Urban League of Greater Madison geared toward low-income, minority students that was voted down by the School Board in 2011.

“In some cases there will be opportunities where school boards say, ‘No, we don’t want that,’ as Madison did, and it seems there should be another option for those families,” she said.


The proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

A focus on adult employment.

Heavy Adult Employment Focus in the Milwaukee Public a Schools

Erin Richards

But after Tyson made his offer, an MPS teacher who also is a teachers’ union employee submitted a plan to reopen Lee as a district-run charter school.

The School Board was said to be considering both options. It was scheduled to discuss the potential sale or lease of several empty buildings, including the Lee building, in closed session Tuesday night.

Despite enrollment declines of 1,000 or more students each year for nine years — before an increase in 2013-’14 — the School Board and district administration have been averse to selling their public property to nondistrict school operators. Voucher and nondistrict charter school operators compete with the district for students, and more students attending those schools means potentially fewer students — and less state aid money — coming to MPS.

Supporters of successful private voucher and independent charter schools believe there shouldn’t be so many roadblocks to those schools obtaining building space to expand. St. Marcus’ state achievement test scores are some of the highest in the city for schools with predominantly low-income, minority students.

St. Marcus will be paying around $80,000 a year to lease the Aurora Weier site, which will be called the St. Marcus Early Childhood Center, North Campus. Tyson said they may eventually buy the building.

Up to 250 young children could be served at the new site by next year, Tyson said.

This year, even with the new early childhood site opening, Tyson said about 200 children remain on the waiting list to get into St. Marcus.

An interview with Henry Tyson.

Status Quo Governance: 9 months after development deal, Malcolm X Academy remains empty

Erin Richards:

Remember last fall when the Common Council and Milwaukee Public Schools approved plans to turn the vacant Malcolm X Academy into a renovated school, low-income apartments and commercial space?

Critics at the time said it was a poorly conceived rush job designed to prevent a competing private school, St. Marcus Lutheran School, from acquiring the building as an expansion site.

Supporters said the public-private partnership would help kids and put part of the sprawling Malcolm X building, covering almost five acres on the city’s north side, back on the tax rolls.

Nine months later, nothing has been done.

The developer hasn’t applied for tax credits, let alone bought the building. Both were key to the deal. The Common Council still must act on final development plans before permits for construction can be issued, city officials say.

MPS and one of the development partners say the deal is still on, but nobody will say — publicly, anyway — the cause for the hold-up. Both suggest the other is dragging its feet.

Meanwhile, Henry Tyson, the superintendent of St. Marcus Lutheran School, submitted a letter of interest for another nearby empty MPS building — Lee School. That was in May. Six weeks later, a Milwaukee teacher who works for the teachers union submitted a proposal to turn Lee into a charter school run by district staff.

“We continue to say what we’ve said before: that this is a shell game to keep usable buildings out of the hands of high-quality voucher and charter school operators,” Tyson said.

Commentary and Misinformation on Wisconsin Test Scores: Voucher, Public and Higher Academic Standards

St. Marcus Superintendent Henry Tyson, via a kind reader’s email:

Dear supporters of St. Marcus School,

I need your help in setting the story straight. Perhaps you read the bold headline in the local section of the Journal Sentinel yesterday — “Wisconsin voucher students lag in latest state test.” That claim is not accurate. You need to understand that this is misinformation about the Choice program. I want you to know the truth — and be our voices in sharing this with others.
The state released the 2012 WKCE test scores this week, conveniently comparing the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) to all of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and showing that MPS “beat” MPCP in every subject area.
Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of reality and is not an “apples to apples” comparison. The information that was released FAILED to do the appropriate comparison of MPS low-income students to MPCP, whose students are almost ENTIRELY from low-income families. When doing an accurate comparison of MPCP to MPS’s low-income population, choice schools beat MPS in all subjects except math. (Remember MPS has many students who are not in poverty and are high-achieving. By nature, almost allMPCP students are low-income.)
Beyond the program averages, our St. Marcus students are doing tremendously well, outpacing both the MPS and MPCP numbers by wide margins:

This may seem unimportant, since people are often negative about the choice program. However, it is actually very important at this time to set the record straight. Legislators are reading this misinformation, our supporters are reading this misinformation and so is the general public. At a time when there is much debate about the amount of the choice voucher funding and the expansion of the program, it is essential that we set the record straight. We need to get correct information to our supporters and legislators immediately!
At St. Marcus, it has been demonstrated that it is possible to educate the urban poor, even very poor children, in a highly effective manner. To protect the well-being of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and to enable St. Marcus to continue to grow and deliver excellent education to more students please take ACTION:
Forward this e-mail to your friends and certainly any legislators you know.
Contact your legislator directly and encourage them to support an increase in the voucher amount for MPCP schools. (Unbelievably, the current voucher amount of $6,451 is lower than the voucher amount back in 2006!)
Thanks for acting in support of your friends at St. Marcus and the awesome students achieving great things in schools like ours.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you can contact me.
Henry Tyson, Superintendent

Listen to a 2012 interview with Henry Tyson, here.
The Wisconsin State Journal:

The lower scores do not reflect falling performance. Students just need to know more to rank as high as they used to.
Most states are doing the same thing and will benchmark their exams to international standards.
Just as importantly, the computerized assessments of the near future will adjust to the ability of students. That will give parents and educators much better, more detailed and timely information about what students know and what they still need to learn.
Some critics will disparage any and all testing, pretending it will be the only measure Wisconsin will use for success. Others have lamented the increasing role of the federal government in the process.

Phil Hands cartoon.

Madison’s public schools go to lockdown mode; no new ideas wanted

David Blaska:

Graphical user interface? I think not, Mr. Jobs. Mainframe is where it’s at. Big and honking, run by guys in white lab coats. Smart phones? iPads? You’re dreaming. Take your new ideas somewhere else.
That is the Madison School Board. It has decided to batten the hatches against change. It is securing the perimeter against new thinking. It is the North Korea of education: insular, blighted, and paranoid.
Just try to start a charter school in Madison. I dare you. The Madison School Board on Monday took three measures to strangle new ideas in their crib:
1) Preserving the status quo: Any proposed charter school would have to have “a history of successful practice.” That leaves out several existing Madison public schools – never mind new approaches.
2) Starvation: Cap per-pupil reimbursement at around $6,500 – less than half what Madison public schools consume.
3) Encrustation: Unionized teachers only need apply.
I spoke to Carrie Bonk, executive director of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.

Madison’s disastrous reading results.

The rejected Studio charter school.

Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.

“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.

Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.

Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..

Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.

Madison’s School Board to Finalize “Charter School Policy”……

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff (PDF):

It is the policy of the School Board to consider the establishment of charter schools that support the DISTRICT Mission and Belief Statements and as provided by law. The BOARD believes that the creation of charter schools can enhance the educational opportunities for Madison Metropolitan School District students by providing innovative and distinctive educational programs and by giving parents/students more educational options within the DISTRICT. Only charter schools that are an instrumentality of the DISTRICT will be considered by the BOARD.
The BOARD further believes that certain values and principles must be integrated into all work involving the conceptualization, development and implementation of a new charter school. These guiding principles are as follows:
1. All charter schools must meet high standards of student achievement while providing increased educational opportunities, including broadening existing opportunities for struggling populations of students;
2. All charter schools must have an underlying, research-based theory and history of successful practice that is likely to achieve academic success;
3. All charter schools will provide information to parents and students as to the quality of education provided by the charter school and the ongoing academic progress of the individual student;
4. All charter schools will ensure equitable access to all students regardless of gender, race and/or disability;
5. All charter schools must be financially accountable to the DISTRICT and rely on +’ sustainable funding models;
6. All charter schools must ensure the health and safety of all staff and students;
7. All externally-developed charter schools must be governed by a governance board that is registered as a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization;
8. All charter schools must have a plan to hire, retain and recruit a highly-qualified, diverse staff;
9. All charter schools must have a clear code of student conduct that includes procedures for positive interventions and social emotional supports

Matthew DeFour’s article.
The rejected Studio charter school.
Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.
“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.
Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13.
Madison’s disastrous long term reading results..
Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education reforms include voucher expansion and more

Matthew DeFour

Walker’s reform proposals include:

  • Expanding private school vouchers to school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools receiving school report card grades of “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” The expansion, which would include Madison schools, would be capped at 500 students statewide next year and 1,000 students the following year.
  • Creating a statewide charter school oversight board, which would approve local nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to create and oversee independent charter schools. Only students from districts that qualify for vouchers could attend the charter schools. Authorizers would have to provide annual performance reports about the schools.
  • Expanding the Youth Options program, which allows public school students to access courses offered by other public schools, virtual schools, the UW System, technical colleges and other organizations approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Granting special education students a private school voucher.
  • Eliminating grade and residency restrictions for home-schooled students who take some courses in a public school district. School districts would receive additional state funding for home-schooled students who access public school courses or attend virtual schools.

Additionally, Walker’s spokesman confirmed plans to make no additional funding available for public schools in the budget he plans to propose Wednesday.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

St. Marcus model offers hope for Milwaukee schools

Alan Borsuk;

He thinks Milwaukee has advantages in shooting for success, including its size, the overall value system of the city, strong business and philanthropic support of education, and three streams of schools – public, charter and private (including many religious schools) – that each want to improve. He says he is more convinced than ever that the model being pursued by St. Marcus works and can be replicated.
These are controversial beliefs – for one thing, anything involving voucher schools remains highly charged. Tyson says politicians should focus less on such disputes and more on how to offer quality through whatever schools offer it.

Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School.
Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending.

Words: Madison’s Plan to Close the Achievement Gap: The Good, Bad, and Unknown

Mike Ford:

Admittedly I did not expect much. Upon review some parts pleasantly surprised me, but I am not holding my breath that it is the answer to MMSD’s achievement gaps. It is a classic example of what I call a butterflies and rainbows education plan. It includes a variety of non-controversial, ambitious, and often positive goals and strategies, but no compelling reason to expect it to close the achievement gap. Good things people will like, unlikely to address MMSD’s serious problems: butterflies and rainbows.
What follows is a review of the specific recommendations in the MSSD plan. And yes, there are good things in here that the district should pursue. However, any serious education plan must include timelines not just for implementation, but also for results. This plan does not do that. Nor does it say what happens if outcomes for struggling subgroups of students do not improve.
Recommendation #1: Ensure that All K-12 Students are Reading at Grade Level

The rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school was proposed to address, in part Madison’s long standing achievement gap.
Related: Interview: Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus Elementary School (an inner-city voucher school).

Madison School Board President James Howard says parent engagement is key to black students’ success

Pat Schneider:

T: The assumption in the discussion of parent engagement and academic achievement is that it is African-American parents who are not engaged.
JH: I think that’s the reality of it. The question is: why aren’t they engaged? The latest survey we had showed that roughly 40 percent of African-American high school students were not engaged. Why? What happens to the kids? We seem to lose them over time, and we lose the parents.
CT: That’s a pernicious thing for black youth, isn’t it? Why do you think it’s happening?
JH: I think one of the things is that we need to create a culture in our schools that these kids can feel they are more a part of. For example, we don’t present “American” history — there’s a lot of African-American history that never makes it to the books. So, if we as a country, as a community, would depict the true picture and make them part of it, I think kids would remain engaged longer.

Related: An interview the Henry Tyson, Superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus school.

Rules tie up Milwaukee Public Schools real estate

Becky Vevea:

The former Garfield Elementary School building, stately and picturesque, looks as if it could be used for a movie set. That would be one way to fill the empty school with life.
For now, the century-old building at 2215 N. 4th St. sits empty.
Just down the road, construction is under way for a $7 million expansion to St. Marcus Lutheran School, one of the highest performing voucher schools in the city. But before St. Marcus raised millions of dollars, school leaders spent months in conversations with Milwaukee Public Schools about purchasing one of several nearby vacant buildings, including Garfield Elementary.
They were unsuccessful.
For MPS, one less building would mean revenue from the sale and a reduction in maintenance costs. So what happened?
“We were told we could buy them, but could not operate them as a school in competition with MPS,” said Henry Tyson, St. Marcus’ superintendent. “It became clear that the acquisition of one of those vacant MPS buildings was just not an option.”

Miracle at St. Marcus

Sunny Schubert:

Henry Tyson shows how urban education can succeed in the right setting.
“I never wanted to be involved in helping the poor. My mother was born in Africa and was always very sympathetic toward the poor and people of other races. But the whole inner-city thing came about during my senior year at Northwestern,” says the superintendent of Milwaukee’s St. Marcus School.
“I was majoring in Russian, so in the summer of my junior year, I went to Russia. I absolutely hated it – just hated it. So when I got back to school, I realized I had a problem figuring out what to do next,” he remembers.
About that time, he was having a discussion with a black friend, “and she basically told me I didn’t have a clue what it was like in the inner city. She challenged me to do an ‘Urban Plunge,’ which is a program where you spend a week in an inner-city neighborhood.
“We were in the Austin neighborhood, on the West Side of Chicago. It was a defining moment for me,” he says. “I was so struck by the inequity and therefore the injustice of it all. I couldn’t believe that people lived – and children were growing up! – in such an environment, such abject poverty.”
“I knew after that week that I wanted to work with the urban poor. I felt a deep tug, like this was what I was meant to do. In my view, it was like a spiritual calling.”