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Reggio Emilia: From Postwar Italy to NYC’s Toniest Preschools; Remembering the Rejected Madison Studio School (Charter)

Emily Chertoff, via a kind reader’s email:

A teaching approach meant to perk up the children of war is popular at a handful of posh American schools. But wouldn’t it make more sense to use it with underprivileged kids?
It’s relatively rare to hear a preschool described as “luxurious.” But in 2007 the New York Times used just that word in praising one on the Upper East Side. What did the reporter mean, exactly? Artisanal carob cookies? Cashmere blankets at nap time?
Not quite. The article was describing a school run on the principles of Reggio Emilia, an educational method that privileges beauty and art. Reggio, which is named after a town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, often appears in the U.S. as part of the pedagogy of ultra-elite private schools — but it was developed to help the humblest children.
On April 25, 1945, Allied forces in Italy, and their counterparts in the country’s transitional government, declared an end to the Mussolini regime. Some Italians marked Liberation Day by throwing parties or pouring out into the streets. The residents of one small village near Bologna celebrated by founding a school.
The town of Reggio Emilia and its surrounding villages had been flattened by years of bombings and ground warfare. The Germans, who had retreated through the area, left behind tanks and ammunition in fine condition, but these were of no use to the townspeople.

Recall that the Madison Studio School (Wisconsin State Journal Article), rejected as a charter school by the Madison school board was based on the Reggio Emilia model.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

School Board Vote on the Studio School Tonight

In the context of the Madison School District’s financial challenges, it’s easy to understand why creating a new program may seem unthinkable. Yet creativity can prove a strong ally in times of adversity. Take the prospect of the latest charter school idea to come before the Madison School Board, and consider these points:
As a charter school, the Studio School can bring in $550,000 in federal grants over its first four years. These grants, earmarked for charter schools, are designed to help districts cover start-up costs. The Studio School can be implemented in a way that keeps operating costs in line with other elementary schools district-wide; yet as a charter with an arts and technology emphasis, it would have the ability to seek additional grants and sources of financial support.
The Studio School would be in an existing public school, just as the district’s bilingual charter school operates. This school-within-a- school model is a cost- efficient way to foster innovation. As a taxpayer and a parent, I see the Studio School as an excellent use of underused space. While its location has yet to be determined by the district and School Board, the idea poses interesting possibilities. Could a charter school draw some students from a nearby overcrowded school? Over the long term, might an innovative option help attract new families to a neighborhood where parents had once worried about the future of an under-enrolled school? And how might such an effort dovetail with our city’s development plans?


More on the Proposed Madison Studio School

The Madison School Board discussed the proposed Madison Studio School recently. Watch the video and read these recent articles:

  • Mayoral Candidates Endorse the Studio School by Susan Troller
  • Board Wants Study of Studio School by Deborah Ziff
  • Don’t Rush Approval of Studio School by John Keckhaver
  • Chafing at Charters by Jason Shephard:

    But citizen praise was matched by district badmouthing. At every stage, district officials exaggerated the potential problems posed by the school, and at no point did they provide evidence that they had worked to resolve them.
    For example, Rainwater wants the 44-student school to have its own full-time principal and secretary, while Studio School backers want to save money by sharing Emerson’s resources.
    Rainwater’s insistence on spending more money, which could torpedo the proposal, left some shaking their heads. Kobza asked whether it would make sense to even consider other charters, as Rainwater’s rules would make them financially unviable.
    Rainwater, amazingly, conceded the point: “I agree that you would never have a charter school” given these requirements, he said.


I Support the Madison Studio School

Taxpayers, parents and students, particularly those who will enter our schools over the next few decades will benefit from more local choices if the Madison Studio School can lift off, soon.
The Madison School District Administration’s recent history has been marked by a reduction in choice for parents and students and generally a monolithic approach to curriculum. Examples include the rush toward one size fits all curriculum in high schools [East High School and West High School’s English 9/10], the annual attempt to kill elementary strings and the ongoing implementation of scripted curriculum such as Connected Math, among others. This has occurred despite flat overall enrollment and growing district budgets.
The Madison Studio School initiative rises out of the successful near westside Preschool of the Arts family. Learn more by visiting their website along with these articles.
Lifting off is made more difficult by the Madison School District’s structural deficit, which further limits annual increases in the $331M+ budget.
I hope that The School Board, Administration and Studio School proponents can mutually find a way to say yes, rather than, as Scott Milfred points out, starting with the usual same service reasons to say no.
Over time, I believe the Studio School will grow and spawn additional charter initiatives, perhaps offering middle and high school students more options.
For me, this is simply a governance issue. I think movement away from the typical monolithic approach will benefit our students and community over the long haul.
A closing data point: Appleton’s public schools offer 13 charter options, compared to Madison’s two.
David Cohen makes some useful counter-points in his comments below.

Watch a Discussion of the Proposed Madison Studio School

Watch this 2 hour discussion or download the 69MB video clip.

Much more on the Madison Studio School.
Ben Popper:

“I want to know why these charter options exist in other parts of the state, but not in Madison,” said Christina Navaro. “Here in the shadow of this amazing university, why don’t we have the choices that will keep parents in the public school system?”
Becky Van Houten, director of the Preschool of the Arts, where Donahue had taught, tried to give a historical perspective on the importance of a Reggio education.
“The educators who created Reggio were reacting to the terrors of fascist regimes,” she said. “They wanted to educate students who would not simply go along with what they were told.”

Zig & Zag with the Madison Studio School Politics.

Local Politics: Zig and Zag with the Madison Studio School

Steven Elbow’s Tuesday article in The Capital Times on the proposed Madison Studio School included a rather tantalizing opening quote from organizer Nancy Donahue:

When Nancy Donahue began her effort for a charter school in Madison, she had no idea she would be wading into a world of politics.
“It’s a campaign,” said Donahue, who hopes to have her arts- and technology-oriented Studio School up and running next fall. “And before this I was very apolitical. But I’ve learned if you believe in something you do what you have to do.”

A couple of close observers of Madison’s political tea leaves emailed some additional context:

Former teacher and Progressive Dane education task force member Kristin Forde is a member of the Madison Studio School’s “core planning group”. In the past, Forde has participated in School Board candidate interviews and a Progressive Dane (PD) candidate Forum.
Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. has been and is supported by PD along with recently elected (in one of the closest local elections in memory – by 70 votes) board member Arlene Silveira.
PD reportedly requires any candidate they endorse to back all of their future candidates and initiatives. [ed: Shades of “with us or against us“. Evidently both Russ Feingold and Barack Obama have not read the memo.]

I find PD’s positions interesting. They recently strongly supported the Linden Park edge school [map] (opposed by a few locals who dislike the sprawl implications, though it handily passed in November, with 69% voting in favor). I do think Madison is behind the innovation curve with respect to online learning and possibly charters. Appleton has 12 charter schools, including an online school.
Background documents:

The timing and politics are a challenge, given the recently disclosed 7 year Madison School District structural deficit which will require larger than normal reductions in the 2007 / 2008 budget increases.
I have very fond memories of Madison’s Preschool of the Arts.
It will be interesting to see if the Studio School supporters endorse PD’s spring, 2007 candidates, which include Johnny Winston, Jr who is standing for re-election.

Madison Studio School Public Hearing Today @ 5:00p.m.

Will you have an opportunity to register SUPPORT for The STUDIO SCHOOL at today’s (5:00pm) public hearing by the Madison School Board?
With the approval of the school board, the public charter school of arts and technology would open next fall in Madison. See more about The STUDIO SCHOOL (SIS Links) here:

Please contact school board members to voice your support for creating this new educational opportunity, within the public school system, for children in Madison. Thank you.

Studio School Update

Susan Troller:

The backers of the Studio School were given permission by the Madison school board last year to pursue the planning grant.
Donahue said the proposed Studio School will focus on providing a school-wide, arts rich curriculum for elementary school students. It would be chartered with the Madison school district in a way similar to the district’s very successful dual immersion Spanish language school, Nuestro Mundo Inc., or its other charter school, Wright Middle School. Both schools focus on issues of multi-culturalism and integrating social action into the curriculum.

More on the Studio School.

Madison School Board Continues Non Diverse Governance Practices with Proposed Montessori Academy School

Amber Walker:

In a 5-2 decision on Monday, the Madison School Board voted to postpone the charter approval of Isthmus Montessori Academy.

The board wanted more clarity around the school’s proposed attendance area, financial and academic accountability standards at their three-year mark, and language in the proposal that asks for waivers that apply to early release and lesson planning time promised to all Madison Metropolitan School District teachers via the employee handbook.

IMA has until Aug. 21 to finish negotiations with the district to iron out the details. The board is expected to take up the vote again at its next regular meeting on Aug. 28.

If the board approves the charter, IMA, which is currently a private school, would cease operation and reopen as Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School in the fall of 2018 serving students in 4K through ninth grade.

IMACS would be a free public charter school, operating under the authority of the Madison School Board.

Some history on (aborted) independent charter schools in Madison, including:

the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and

the Studio School.

2009: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Unfortunately, Madison continues to support a non diverse K-12 Governance model, this despite spending far more per student than most districts and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Related: an Independent (!) Charter School RFP for Madison or Milwaukee.

Independent (!) Charter School RFP: Madison OR Milwaukee (!)

University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, via a kind email:

As home to the nation’s first public kindergarten, Wisconsin has a proud history of visionary educators incubating innovative educational opportunities for students, families, and their communities.

The Office of Educational Opportunity is proud to be a partner in the Badger State’s living legacy of educational innovations. Our role is to connect students, families, professional educators, and community leaders with an opportunity to create a school that meets their needs and interests.

If you have an idea for a school, then we invite you to review and respond to our Request for Proposal (RFP). Details about how we will score applications are provided in the linked rubrics, but for us to “green light” any proposal, it must provide access to new educational innovations, incubate existing educational practices in new ways, and/or increase educational equity.

Selection Process

The Office of Educational Opportunity will begin seeking proposals for public charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee on August 2, 2017.

Phase 1 submissions will be scored on a rolling basis using the reviewer guide shared below.

Applicants with approved Phase 1 applications will be invited to submit a Phase II application (Phase II applications that are submitted without an approved Phase 1 will be returned to the applicant without being reviewed).

The School Selection Committee will score Phase 2 submissions using the reviewer guide provided below. The Committee will make authorization recommendations to OEO’s Director.

Applicants who receive a recommendation for authorization from the School Selection Committee may commence contract negotiations with OEO’s Director – subject to the Director accepting the Committee’s recommendation for authorization.

If mutually agreeable contract terms are reached, then the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents must approve of the contract for any school to be officially authorized by OEO.

Some history on (aborted) independent charter schools in Madison, including:

the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and

the Studio School.

2009: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Unfortunately, Madison continues to support a non diverse K-12 Governance model, this despite spending far more per student than most districts and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Much more on Gary Bennett’s office of Educational Opportunity.

The RFP respondents need not conform to Madison or Milwaukee’s legacy organization structure – that is, they would be a “non instrumentality” school.

This is positive. I hope and pray that we see interesting proposals and schools.

Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Office of Educational Opportunity (PDF):

Identifying Information

Name of Organization:

Year Founded:

Revised 5/31/2017, 11:30 a.m.

Recovery School Request for Proposal

First and Last Name of Primary Applicant:

Mailing Address:
Preferred E-Mail Address
Preferred Phone Number:

Attach the names, professional affiliation, and role in the proposed school for all school leaders and board members.

Summarize the purpose and brief history of the organization. (For instance, is this a new non profit created for this proposed school, or is it an existing nonprofit seeking to expand or replicate its portfolio?)

Evidence of Incorporation in Wisconsin and IRS status

Organizational Background

Do you currently operate a school, if yes where for how long and how is it operated (public district, private, other)?

Is your proposal a fresh start campus, replication campus, or a conversion campus?

If it is a conversion campus, why are you seeking to reorganize your operations into a public charter school?

Have you applied for charter status before? If yes with what authorizer, what was the outcome, and what reasons were given for the outcome?
May we contact the authorizer to discuss your prior application?

Much more on Gary Bennett’s Wisconsin – non traditional government school district – charter school authorizing body.

Related: A majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Also rejected: the Studio School.

This University of Wisconsin system office has the authority to authorize Charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

Despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Note that charter and voucher schools must operate on less than half of Madison’s per student spending. They receive only redistributed state tax dollars, nothing from local property taxes or other typical government sources.

“what will save workers is educational reform” – Perhaps, Given Governance Diversity

Entique Dans:

Society’s approach to the relationship between men and robots, taking the definition of robot as broadly as possible, tends to be somewhat apocalyptic: robots will steal our jobs and create a dysfunctional society where manual labor and tasks of little added value or the three Ds have been replaced: in short, a largely negative vision of the future.

And then of course there are those people who still ask whether we are really in the midst of a process of replacing people with robots? Of course we are. In fact, robots have been taking work away from people for many years.

Madison has continued to support non diverse K-12 governance despite long term, disastrous reading results and spending more than most, now around $18,000 per student.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison preparatory academy IB charter school and the studio school.

On Madison’s lack of K-12 Diversity and choice

Karen Rivedahl:

“The best thing my office can do is increase access to educational opportunities and increase equity,” he said. “The worst thing it can do is create fights for fights’ sake.”

Independent charter schools, while funded by state taxpayers, operate outside most traditional public school rules in a way that supporters say make them more effective and perhaps better able to address long-standing challenges, such as raising test scores for low-income and minority students.

Detractors counter they are a financial drain on the public school system with no guaranteed ability to offer students any better education.

The Madison School District, which already has the power to authorize independent charter schools but so far has not done so, remains in the detractors’ ranks.

“Gary knows how I feel about his office — that I think it’s unnecessary, that our board, like any school board, ought to be making decisions about how to serve students,” Cheatham said. “Our goal is to make that office obsolete

Much more on Gary Bennett, here.

Madison has continued to support non diverse K-12 governance despite long term, disastrous reading results and spending more than most, now around $18,000 per student.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison preparatory academy IB charter school and the studio school.

A Madison “instrumentality Charter School” Approved

Doug Erickson:

Board member Mary Burke said it was critically important to her that the student body of the new charter school reflect the demographics of the overall district in terms of racial diversity and the percentages of students with special needs. The school’s founders and its supporters convinced her through their testimonials and their diligent work that this will be the case, she said.

“I think there’s a true commitment,” Burke said. She noted that the parents who came to the board asking for the public Montessori option reflected that diversity.

More than 20 supporters spoke Monday, one telling the board the IMA proposal is “a gift you don’t want to turn down.”

Prior to voting against the proposal, Mertz said he was concerned that too many unresolved issues were being left to the administration to negotiate when they should be dealt with by the board. After the meeting, he added that he thought the overall proposal has too many weaknesses.

Independent charter schools have been rejected by a majority of the Madison School. They include the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School and the Studio School.

This, despite our long term, disastrous reafing results.

New Jersey’s charter school law is too restrictive (Madison lacks independent charters)

Laura Waters:

Last week the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) published a new study, “The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: a State-by-State Analysis.” No worries here: according to NAPCS’s data, New Jersey is in fine fettle, ranking fourth among twenty-six states. (The analyses are restricted to states that serve more than one percent of students through public charters.)

However, a closer look at our scores reveals an infirmity that belies our glowing complexion: N.J.’s charter school sector soldiers in spite of the Legislative failure to ameliorate our outdated, pockmarked charter school law. Prognosis is guarded.

NAPCS’s new report, a follow-up to its research on model public school laws, creates a rubric based on 11 factors that indicate a healthy charter school environment. These include increases in the number of children served by these independent public schools; proportional representation of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch; proportional representation of children with disabilities and English language learner status; innovative practices like extended school calendars and higher education courses; rate of charter school closures.

Madison’s rejected charter schools include the Studio school and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

The status quo governance (and spending, > $15k / student or double the national average) continues despite long term disastrous reading results.

“we don’t believe now is the time to move individual (charter school) proposals forward” – Madison Superintendent

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (3MB PDF):

While we are busy working in the present day on the improvement of all of our schools, a key aspect of our long-term strategy must include the addition or integration of unique programs or school models that meet identified needs. However, to ensure that these options are strategic and that they enhance our focus rather than distract from it, we need to build a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy.

We need to think in depth about how options like additional district charter schools would meet the needs of our students, how they would support our vision and close opportunity gaps for all. The things we are learning now from our high school reform collaborative, which was just launched, and the review of our special education and alternative programs, which is now in progress, will be powerful information to help build that strategy over the coming school year.

Until we establish that more comprehensive long-term strategy, together with the Board and with direction and input from our educators and families, we don’t believe now is the time to move individual proposals forward. Both the district and those proposing a charter option should have the guidance of a larger strategy to ensure that any proposal would meet the needs of our students and accomplish our vision.

Related: A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Also, the proposed (and rejected) Studio School.

Charter Deja Vu in Madison: Isthmus Montessori Academy proposes Madison charter school to focus on achievement gap

Seth Jovaag:

Melissa Droessler tries not to flinch when she tells people her dream of opening a charter school in Madison.

“Even the word ‘charter’ in Madison can be emotionally charged,” she says.

But Droessler, director of Isthmus Montessori Academy, is steadfast in her belief that a century-old pedagogy created in the slums of Rome could help tackle Madison schools’ thorniest problems.

Last month, the academy submitted a proposal to open Madison’s first public Montessori school in September 2015. As Madison’s fourth charter school, it would be tuition-free and open to anyone. It would also employ unionized Madison teachers, potentially avoiding a hurdle that tripped up proponents of the Madison Preparatory Academy charter school in 2011.

Perhaps most significant, Droessler and others believe the Montessori approach could raise low-income and minority student achievement.

“The achievement gap will probably be the biggest part of our pitch,” she says “We feel it’s time for this in Madison. There’s no other motive.”

Organizers want to submit a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by April 15 that could net $150,000 for planning costs next year. The Madison school board is expected to vote whether to green-light the application at its March 31 meeting, though any binding decision to establish the school is at least 10 months away, according to district policy governing the creation of charter schools.

Board member James Howard has toured the academy at 255 N. Sherman Ave. on the city’s near-northeast side. He says he’s interested in the proposal but needs to know more before forming an opinion. Ditto for board president Ed Hughes.

Related: Previous stillborn Madison charter initiatives include: The Studio School and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB school.

Madison’s Nuestro Mundo Charter Contract Revisions

The Madison School District (PDF):

More rigorous and frequent reviews of progress (3.02, 4.04, 24)
Modify student achievement goals and include more robust measures of student performance (4.01, 4.02, 4.03, Appendix 1)
Clarify the admissions process, which is expressly aligned to the process used for other DLI programs (7.04)

Nuestro Mundo generally operates within the traditional District structures. Two proposed charter schools that largely wished to operate in a more independent manner – to varying degrees -, The Studio School and the Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School were rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board.

Free (UK) schools: our education system has been dismembered in pursuit of choice

Stephen Ball:

The English education system is being dismembered. Gradually but purposefully first New Labour and now the coalition government have been unpicking and disarticulating the national system of state schooling. With free schools and academies of various kinds, faith schools, studio schools and university technical colleges, the school system is beginning to resemble the patchwork of uneven and unequal provision that existed prior to the 1870 Education Act.
At the same time, we are moving back to an incoherent and haphazard jigsaw of providers – charities, foundations, social enterprises and faith and community groups – monitored at arm’s length by the central state. Furthermore, private providers are waiting in the wings for the opportunity to profit from running schools.
Local democratic oversight has been almost totally displaced. Our relationship to schools is being modelled on that of the privatised utilities – we are individual customers, who can switch provider if we are unhappy, in theory, and complain to the national watchdog if we feel badly served – but with no direct, local participation or involvement, no say in our children’s education.
These changes have been pursued in the name of choice, diversity and autonomy. Some parents now have new schools to choose from for their children, but some do not. This simply depends on where you live. You may have a local academy or you may not. If you do, it might be a sponsored academy (Bexley, south-east London), a chain academy (Ark, ULT, AET), a converter academy, or a school subject to forced academisation. There are 174 free schools and you may live near one of these, but many are faith schools or have specialisms that may not suit your child. The free schools were supposed to be targeted at areas of social disadvantage but recent research by Rob Higham at the Institute of Education indicates their distribution does not reflect this aim. There is a distribution map of free schools on the DfE website.Some of these free schools already have problems – unqualified teachers, poor management – as Nick Clegg will point out in his speech on Thursday. Academies seem to display the same diversity of outcomes as the schools they replaced. If you live in a rural area you’re unlikely to have much, if any, choice of school.

Madison School Board Approves Badger Rock Charter Middle School: “Could Cost More Than Expected”


new one-of-a-kind charter school in the city of Madison could soon become a reality, but an error in crunching numbers may mean more of a burden for city taxpayers.
The error was found just a few weeks ago, and it could put taxpayers on the hook for an additional $380,000 over the next five years.
But proponents of the proposed Badger Rock charter school have been scrambling to find ways to trim costs. And despite the bigger budget numbers, they said they hope the Madison School Board sees the bigger picture and not just dollar signs.
The year-round, agriculture- and green-based school on Madison’s southwest side would start with 50 students in sixth grade. The school would add grades seven and eight in the following two years, for a total of 150 students.
Support for the school has been great until what’s being called a “hiccup” two weeks ago.

As part of the conditions that passed, the board must execute a contract with the school no later than April 1 to operate it for a five-year period. Board member Lucy Mathiak added a sentence saying the contract shall define the district’s financial obligations for each of the five years and shall contain language limiting the district’s financial liability. Mathiak’s amendment passed 6-1.

Much more on Badger Rock here.
It would be interesting to see how the funding/review/political model compares with the ill-fated Studio School proposal and, how current public schools might fare as a “startup” today.

Commentary on Charter Schools in the Madison School District

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak:

On Monday, the Board of Education will have a presentation by the planning group that is proposing an environmentally-focused project-based charter middle school. The Badger Rock Middle School is the first charter proposal to come before the board since the Studio School debacle a few years back. From what we are hearing in the community, it is not likely to be the last (more on that later).
Proposed Charter: Badger Rock Middle School
What we will be deciding now: The board will be asked to approve the group’s initial proposal, which will form the basis of a planning grant application to the Department of Public Instruction. If the planning grant is awarded, the group will carry out additional work necessary to develop and design the charter school in greater detail, and develop a proposal that would come before the board requesting approval of the creation of the school and its charter.

Notes and Links: President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan Visit Madison’s Wright Middle School (one of two Charter Schools in Madison).


President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will visit Madison’s Wright Middle School Wednesday, November 4, 2009, purportedly to give an education speech. The visit may also be related to the 2010 Wisconsin Governor’s race. The Democrat party currently (as of 11/1/2009) has no major announced candidate. Wednesday’s event may include a formal candidacy announcement by Milwaukee Mayor, and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett. UPDATE: Alexander Russo writes that the visit is indeed about Barrett and possible legislation to give the Milwaukee Mayor control of the schools.

Possible Participants:

Wright Principal Nancy Evans will surely attend. Former Principal Ed Holmes may attend as well. Holmes, currently Principal at West High has presided over a number of controversial iniatives, including the “Small Learning Community” implementation and several curriculum reduction initiatives (more here).
I’m certain that a number of local politicians will not miss the opportunity to be seen with the President. Retiring Democrat Governor Jim Doyle, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (Falk has run for Governor and Attorney General in the past) and Madison School Superintendent Dan Nerad are likely to be part of the event. Senator Russ Feingold’s seat is on the fall, 2010 ballot so I would not be surprised to see him at Wright Middle School as well.

Madison’s Charter Intransigence

Madison, still, has only two charter schools for its 24,295 students: Wright and Nuestro Mundo.
Wright resulted from the “Madison Middle School 2000” initiative. The District website has some background on Wright’s beginnings, but, as if on queue with respect to Charter schools, most of the links are broken (for comparison, here is a link to Houston’s Charter School Page). Local biotech behemoth Promega offered free land for Madison Middle School 2000 [PDF version of the District’s Promega Partnership webpage]. Unfortunately, this was turned down by the District, which built the current South Side Madison facility several years ago (some School Board members argued that the District needed to fulfill a community promise to build a school in the present location). Promega’s kind offer was taken up by Eagle School. [2001 Draft Wright Charter 60K PDF]

Wright & Neustro Mundo Background

Wright Middle School Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Madison Middle School 2000 Searches:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

Nuestro Mundo, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was established in response to the commitment of its founders to provide educational, cultural and social opportunities for Madison’s ever-expanding Latino community.” The dual immersion school lives because the community and several School Board members overcame District Administration opposition. Former Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts commented in 2005:

The Madison Board of Education rarely rejects the recommendations of Superintendent Rainwater. I recall only two times that we have explicitly rejected his views. One was the vote to authorize Nuestro Mundo Community School as a charter school. The other was when we gave the go-ahead for a new Wexford Ridge Community Center on the campus of Memorial High School.

Here’s how things happen when the superintendent opposes the Board’s proposed action.

Nuestro Mundo:

Bing / Clusty / Google / Google News / Yahoo

The local school District Administration (and Teacher’s Union) intransigence on charter schools is illustrated by the death of two recent community charter initiatives: The Studio School and a proposed Nuestro Mundo Middle School.

About the Madison Public Schools

Those interested in a quick look at the state of Madison’s public schools should review Superintendent Dan Nerad’s proposed District performance measures. This document presents a wide variety of metrics on the District’s current performance, from advanced course “participation” to the percentage of students earning a “C” in all courses and suspension rates, among others.

Education Hot Topics

Finally, I hope President Obama mentions a number of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent hot topics, including:

This wonderful opportunity for Wright’s students will, perhaps be most interesting for the ramifications it may have on the adults in attendance. Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman recent Rotary speech alluded to school district’s conflicting emphasis on “adult employment” vs education.

Wisconsin State Test Score Comparisons: Madison Middle Schools:

WKCE Madison Middle School Comparison: Wright / Cherokee / Hamilton / Jefferson / O’Keefe / Sennett / Sherman / Spring Harbor / Whitehorse

About Madison:

UPDATE: How Do Students at Wright Compare to Their Peers at Other MMSD Middle Schools?

Advocating Charter Schools in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial, via a kind reader:

Charter schools have no bigger fan than President Barack Obama.
The federal government gave Wisconsin $86 million on Thursday to help launch and sustain more charter schools across the state.
State schools chief Tony Evers said $5 million will go to two dozen school districts this year, with the rest of the money distributed over five years.
Madison, to no surprise, wasn’t on Thursday’s winner list. And don’t expect any of the $86 million for planning and implementing new strategies for public education to be heading Madison’s way.
That’s because the Madison School Board continues to resist Obama’s call for more charter schools. The latest evidence is the School Board’s refusal to even mention the words “charter school” in its strategic action plans.
In sharp contrast, Obama can hardly say a word about public education without touting charters as key to sparking innovation and engaging disadvantaged students.
Obama visited a New Orleans charter school Thursday (and raised money that evening in San Francisco at a $34K per couple dinner) and is preparing to shower billions on states to experiment with new educational strategies. But states that limit charter growth will not be eligible for the money.

I am in favor of a diffused governance model here. I think improvement is more likely via smaller organizations (charters, magnets, whatever). The failed Madison Studio School initiative illustrates the challenges that lie ahead.

Charter schools need a shout-out in Madison action plans

Scott Milfred:

Yet try to find any mention of charter schools in the Madison School District’s new strategic plan and you’ll feel like you’re reading a “Where’s Waldo?” book. You almost need a magnifying lens to find the one fleeting reference in the entire 85-page document. And the words “charter school” are completely absent from the strategic plan’s lengthy and important calls for action.
It’s more evidence that much of liberal Madison clings to an outdated phobia of charter schools. And that attitude needs to change.
Nearly 10 percent of Wisconsin’s public schools are charters. That ranks Wisconsin among the top five states. Yet Madison is below the national average of 5 percent.
Charter schools are public schools free from many regulations to try new things. Parents also tend to have more say.
Yet charters are held accountable for achievement and can easily be shut down by sponsoring districts if they don’t produce results within a handful of years.
One well-known Madison charter school is Nuestro Mundo, meaning “Our World” in Spanish. It immerses kindergartners, no matter their native language, in Spanish. English is slowly added until, by fifth grade, all students are bilingual. My daughter attends Nuestro Mundo.
It was a battle to get this charter school approved. But Nuestro Mundo’s popularity and success have led the district to replicate its dual-language curriculum at a second school without a charter.
The School Board has shot down at least two charter school proposals in recent years, including one for a “Studio School” emphasizing arts and technology.
Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira told me Friday she supports adding charter schools to the district’s action plans in at least two places: under a call for more “innovative school structures,” and as part of a similar goal seeking heightened attention to “diverse learning styles.”

I agree. I believe that diffused governance, in other words a substantive move away from the current top down, largely “one size fits all” governance model within the Madison public schools is essential.

Judy Kujoth: Dual-language middle school needs flexibility of a charter

Judy Kujoth, via a kind reader’s email:

In the spring of 2010, nearly 50 children will comprise the first graduating class of the Nuestro Mundo Community School on Madison’s East Side.
I am the proud parent of a daughter who will be among them.
My husband and I have spent the past five years marveling as she has acquired a second language, conquered challenging curricula and embraced friends from a variety of races and ethnicities. We eagerly anticipate the years to come as her love for languages and diversity continue to blossom.
But like many other parents, we are very worried about what the next stage of her academic journey will look like.
Nuestro Mundo is a charter school that has applied innovative teaching practices within a dual-language immersion framework. It is in its fifth year of offering elementary school students a dual-immersion curriculum in Spanish and English.
Kindergartners enter Nuestro Mundo as either native Spanish or native English speakers. By fifth grade, the goal is for all students to be proficient in both languages and at least on par, academically, with their peers at other schools. The skills they have cultivated need to continue being nurtured.

Unfortunately, charter schools and the Madison School District have mostly been “oil & water”. A few years ago, a group of parents & citizens tried to start an arts oriented charter – The Studio School. Read more here.
Every organization has its challenges and charters are certainly not perfect. However, it is more likely that Madison will see K-12 innovation with a diffused governance model, than if we continue the current very top down approach and move toward one size fits all curriculum. It will be interesting to see what the recent open enrollment numbers look like for Madison. Finally, a Chicago teacher on “magnet schools“.


A Charter Setback in Florida

Wall Street Journal:

As Chicago schools chief, Arne Duncan has found innovative ways to skirt the restrictive cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in Illinois, thus expanding opportunities for low-income kids. So it’s instructive to contrast Mr. Duncan’s can-do attitude with that of Florida Governor Charlie Crist, whose inaction last week handed a victory to opponents of school choice.
On December 2 a Florida District Court struck down a law that created the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, an alternative authorizer of charter schools formed in 2006 under Governor Crist’s predecessor, Jeb Bush. The state had 30 days to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court but let the deadline pass last week.
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The upshot is that only local school boards will be able to authorize charter schools, creating a fox-in-the-hen-house situation in which the same institutions that most oppose school choice will be in a position to block its expansion. Charter schools compete with district schools for students and teachers. And the teachers unions that control the traditional public school system fear that more charters mean smaller school districts and fewer dues-paying union jobs.

Locally, the Studio School charter initiative was killed by a slight Madison School Board majority.

Shameful effort to undermine charter school

San Jose Mercury News Editorial:

Leadership Public Schools’ longstanding battle with the Campbell Union High School District is over.
The district has won. Families of low-income Hispanics, whom the school was designed to serve, have lost.
The board of the non-profit San Francisco-based charter organization voted last week to shut down its Campbell high school after only two years of operation. Leadership is calling the closing a consolidation.
Students will be bused to Overfelt High in East San Jose, where Leadership has a 10-year lease from charter-welcoming East Side Union High School District.
But let’s be straight: This was sabotage by Campbell Union. And it points to weaknesses in the state law that says school districts must provide space to charter schools.
Proposition 39 requires that districts provide equivalent facilities, but only on a yearly basis. So many anti-charter districts, like Campbell, use the provision to give charters a literal run-around and force them to move every year.
Leadership opened two years ago with 120 ninth-graders in rented space at a church not far from Del Mar High, the target area where there was a concentration of long-under-served Hispanic children. (Perhaps showing the value of competition, Del Mar itself has made considerable strides in the past few years under Principal Jim Russell.)

Local Politics: Zig & Zag with the Madison Studio School.

Columbus, Stoughton Granted Startup Funds for 4-Year-Old Kindergarten; Background on Madison’s inaction

Quinn Craugh:

School districts in Stoughton, Columbus, Deerfield, Sauk Prairie and Janesville were among 32 statewide named Monday to receive Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction grants to start kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds.
But it may not be enough for at least one area district.
Getting 4-year-olds enrolled in kindergarten is a key step to raising student achievement levels and graduation rates, particularly among children from low-income families, national research has shown, DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
School districts’ efforts to launch 4K programs have been hampered because it takes three years to get full funding for the program under the state’s school-finance system, according to DPI.
That’s what these grants are supposed to address with $3 million announced for 4K programs to start this fall.
Columbus, one of the school districts that qualified for the grant, would get an estimated $62,814 to enroll 87 children this fall.

Related: Marc Eisen on Missed Opportunity for 4K and High School Redesign.

The good news is that the feds refused to fund the school district’s proposal to revamp the high schools. The plan was wrongheaded in many respects, including its seeming intent to eliminate advanced classes that are overwhelmingly white and mix kids of distressingly varied achievement levels in the same classrooms.
This is a recipe for encouraging more middle-class flight to the suburbs. And, more to the point, addressing the achievement gap in high school is way too late. Turning around a hormone-surging teenager after eight years of educational frustration and failure is painfully hard.
We need to save these kids when they’re still kids. We need to pull them up to grade level well before they hit the wasteland of middle school. That’s why kindergarten for 4-year-olds is a community imperative.
As it happens, state school Supt. Elizabeth Burmaster issued a report last week announcing that 283 of Wisconsin’s 426 school districts now offer 4K. Enrollment has doubled since 2001, to almost 28,000 4-year-olds statewide.
Burmaster nailed it when she cited research showing that quality early-childhood programs prepare children “to successfully transition into school by bridging the effects of poverty, allowing children from economically disadvantaged families to gain an equal footing with their peers.”

Madison Teachers Inc.’s John Matthews on 4 Year Old Kindergarten:

For many years, recognizing the value to both children and the community, Madison Teachers Inc. has endorsed 4-year-old kindergarten being universally accessible to all.
This forward-thinking educational opportunity will provide all children with an opportunity to develop the skills they need to be better prepared to proceed with their education, with the benefit of 4- year-old kindergarten. They will be more successful, not only in school, but in life.
Four-year-old kindergarten is just one more way in which Madison schools will be on the cutting edge, offering the best educational opportunities to children. In a city that values education as we do, there is no question that people understand the value it provides.
Because of the increasing financial pressures placed upon the Madison School District, resulting from state- imposed revenue limits, many educational services and programs have been cut to the bone.
During the 2001-02 budget cycle, the axe unfortunately fell on the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program. The School Board was forced to eliminate the remaining $380,000 funding then available to those families opting to enroll their children in the program.

Jason Shephard on John Matthews:

This includes its opposition to collaborative 4-year-old kindergarten, virtual classes and charter schools, all of which might improve the chances of low achievers and help retain a crucial cadre of students from higher-income families. Virtual classes would allow the district to expand its offerings beyond its traditional curriculum, helping everyone from teen parents to those seeking high-level math and science courses. But the union has fought the district’s attempts to offer classes that are not led by MTI teachers.
As for charter schools, MTI has long opposed them and lobbied behind the scenes last year to kill the Studio School, an arts and technology charter that the school board rejected by a 4-3 vote. (Many have also speculated that Winston’s last minute flip-flop was partly to appease the union.)
“There have become these huge blind spots in a system where the superintendent doesn’t raise certain issues because it will upset the union,” Robarts says. “Everyone ends up being subject to the one big political player in the system, and that’s the teachers union.”
MTI’s opposition was a major factor in Rainwater’s decision to kill a 4-year-old kindergarten proposal in 2003, a city official told Isthmus last year (See “How can we help poor students achieve more?” 3/22/07).
Matthews’ major problem with a collaborative proposal is that district money would support daycare workers who are not MTI members. “The basic union concept gets shot,” he says. “And if you shoot it there, where else are you going to shoot it?”
At times, Matthews can appear downright callous. He says he has no problem with the district opening up its own 4K program, which would cost more and require significant physical space that the district doesn’t have. It would also devastate the city’s accredited non-profit daycare providers by siphoning off older kids whose enrollment offsets costs associated with infants and toddlers.
“Not my problem,” Matthews retorts.

It will be interesting to see where incoming Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad takes this issue.

Wingra School proves that progressive education works. Could it be a model for a public charter school?

Jason Shephard:

Inside Wingra School, the day is just beginning, and already Lisa Kass is commandeering a discussion about violence sparked by storyboards written by her fourth- and fifth-grade students.
“Why do you play violent videogames?” she asks. “Do you think the violence affects you?” This leads to a 45-minute discussion that temporarily pushes back a math lesson.
“It’s cartoon violence, it’s not real violence,” says one boy. “Well, really the goal is to kill people,” admits another. That, says a third student, is why he plays mostly strategy videogames.
The students at Wingra are articulate, reflective and eager to share their opinions. They refine their thoughts as Kass prods them to be more specific or clearer.
Kass, a 19-year veteran Wingra teacher, says later: “I don’t want to censor them, but I want them to think about what’s appropriate and what effects violence might have on them and others.”


Madison School Board Discussion of School Models, Including Basic and Alternative Approaches

The Madison School Board’s Performance and Achievement Committee recently discussed alternative education models. Watch the video here (or download the mp4 file via a CTRL Click. mp4 files can be played back on many portable media players such as iPods). Listen via this mp3 audio file.

Board of Education Activity in 2006-07

A few weeks ago, the Madison BOE received a summary of what the board and its committees had done in its meetings during the past year. I am posting the entire document as an extended entry as community information. It provides a lot more detail, a good overview, and a glimpse at the pieces that didn’t make it into the print and broadcast media.


An Update

The Studio School Charter School:
In a couple of years I hope to take another try at leading a charter school initiative. I continue to read so much educational research and literature that strongly supports The Studio School concepts. As you know, we spent some time looking into ways to create TSS as a private school but just couldn’t see how it could be affordable to everyone and be sustainable. Even as a sliding-scale-tuition cooperative, there would have to be some tuition paid and that leaves out so many children. It still looks as though a charter school is the best alternative. So maybe there will be some changes in our school district and administrators/ board members will become more actively supportive of charter schools, innovation, and the Studio School concept. Am I overly optimistic?
Programs in my home:
Currently, I’m working with some people to piece together a rather eclectic “menu” of educational programs (art, Spanish, yoga, tutoring, early childhood, etc.) in my home that is licensed for child care for ages 4 – 17. The programs being offered are philosophically aligned with the Reggio Approach – experiential, child-centered, multi-modal learning. I don’t have a final name for this yet but the concept is that of a “learning studio” that offers a variety of enriching programs that will provide children with a variety of “languages” for learning and expressing their ideas. (This summer I am offering an Art & Architecture program for 5-8 year old children on Wednesday mornings and we will be working with recycled materials.) If the “eclectic” studio concept is successful, the plan is to move the program out of my house into a public space in the next year or so. I recently met with someone involved in the Hilldale Mall redevelopment project and a location there might be a possibility down the road. And/or it could be offered through community centers or other neighborhood organizations. It’s also my hope that if I could somehow provide real life examples of the Reggio Approach to teaching and learning, people might be better able to envision the amazing positive impact it could have in an elementary school.
Community Partnerships:
I intend to continue meeting with people who are interested in new educational initiatives and who might want to work together to create programs and schools that include the arts & technology for all Madison children. So I want to keep reaching out to neighborhood groups and community members. Please let me know if you run into any folks who might be interested in talking with me about this and I will be happy to contact them. Thanks
Nancy Donahue

Nancy Donahue: Cole not “beholden”

Nancy Donahue, one of the organizers of The Studio School, sent this message to SIS:

I have had the opportunity to talk with Maya Cole twice in the past two weeks and I am convinced that she would be an excellent addition to our school board …someone who can see the big picture and incorporate it into a vision for our schools and our community. A change agent? Moreover, Maya is unfettered by the MTI machinery and political agenda so I can trust that her votes are guided by her own judgment. I am also supporting Rick Thomas for many of the same reasons.
I think that it is imperative that we make every effort to ensure that the people we elect are not “beholden” to any large organization to support their campaigns. MTI’s questionnaire flagrantly and publicly advertises that candidates must comply with the MTI agenda if they want MTI political support (which would be difficult to pass up). But the campaigns are just the beginning of an insidious political relationship. Along with MTI support comes the continual threat of repercussions (i.e., public criticism and withdrawal of support) if, once elected, a candidate should muster the personal integrity to cast a vote that runs counter to the MTI position. I prefer that our school board members feel free to cast votes based on information rather than intimidation.


$65M for 42 Houston Charter Schools

Jay Matthews:

The charter school movement, begun 16 years ago as an alternative to struggling public schools, will today make its strongest claim on mainstream American education when a national group announces the most successful fundraising campaign in the movement’s history — $65 million to create 42 schools in Houston.
The money, which comes from some of the nation’s foremost donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would make the Knowledge Is Power Program the largest charter school organization in the country. KIPP, which runs three schools in Washington, has produced some of the highest test scores among publicly funded schools in the District and has made significant gains in the math and reading achievement of low-income students in most of its 52 schools across the country.

Meanwhile, Madison’s proposed Studio School will apparently open this fall as a private organization. I hope we learn more about the Studio School’s interactions with the Madison School District and how the process might improve in the future.

March Madison BOE Progress Report

March Madness is approaching! On the board level, madness can be characterized by the large assortments of topics and decisions that have been or will need to be made such as the superintendent search, budget, and other serious issues that require time, analysis and public discussion. I would like to give you a brief report on some of those topics.


Sparks Fly as the Madison Studio Charter School is Voted Down

The Madison School Board voted down the proposed Studio Charter School Monday night in a 4-2 vote (Against: Carstensen, Kobza, Silveira and Winston; For Mathiak and Robarts with Vang away).
Sparks flew when Lucy Mathiak asked Nancy Donahue about their interaction with the attempts to talk with principals and teachers about the proposed charter school [12 minute video.] Watch the complete discussion here.
Susan Troller has more:

There is disagreement among Madison School Board members over what put the nails in the coffin of a proposal to create a new fine arts and technology-focused charter school.
The Studio School suffered from being the wrong proposal at the wrong time, said board President Johnny Winston Jr., who joined board members Carol Carstensen, Arlene Silveira and Lawrie Kobza in voting against the plan at Monday night’s School Board meeting.
But board member Lucy Mathiak says that the vote was wrapped up in School Board and labor politics, and that the Studio School suffered from disapproval from Madison Teachers Inc., the district’s union.
But Mathiak, who along with board member Ruth Robarts voted in favor of what would have been Madison’s third charter school, said she felt the proposal was primarily doomed by disapproval from MTI.
She noted that the MTI’s School Board candidate questionnaire asks whether candidates support charter schools, and added that there was a MTI representative at Monday night’s meeting.
“There is definitely the feeling that the union does not look favorably on charter schools, although they are public schools, staffed by district teachers,” Mathiak said.
“I find it ironic that the same people who voted for a voluntary impasse resolution agreement regarding teachers’ contract negotiations are now saying that developing a charter school is something we can’t afford. We should keep all of our options open in the bargaining process … the potential for cost savings are very significant,” she said.
Mathiak is referring to a vote taken by School Board members in preparation for negotiations with the teachers’ union next month that included concessions from the district on bargaining over health care insurance.

Much more on the Studio School here along with some discussion at The Daily Page.

Late January School Board Progress Report

The Madison Board of Education is faced with several great challenges over the next few months. One of the biggest is the announcement that Superintendent Art Rainwater will retire at the end of the June 2008. The board will be working with a consultant to assist in hiring the next superintendent. Another board challenge is the budget shortfall of $10.5 million dollars. Lack of state and federal funding, unfunded and under funded mandates, revenue limits and the qualified economic offer, all contribute to the annual budget woes. While addressing these issues the Board continues its discussion and analysis on positive student behavior in our schools. These changes will lead from a punitive approach to a preventive and restorative justice methodology. This model will increase school safety and lead to changes in the student Code of Conduct and Board policy that can be applied fairly to all students.


Innovation in the Madison Public Schools

Scott Milfred:

The Madison School District just went through a successful school building referendum. Yet a key argument by opponents resonated with the public. The critics asked: Why not close an East Side school with falling enrollment to help pay for construction of a school on the far West Side where the number of students is increasing?
Enter a core of enthusiastic East Side parents pitching an idea they believe could fill Emerson at little cost and ease the pressure to construct yet another school elsewhere. If the parents are right, their proposal for turning Emerson into a charter school just might be the only way to save it from closing.
Charter schools are free from certain state rules and strive to innovate. The Emerson parents are proposing a “Studio School” that would emphasize the arts and technology. The charter school would start with two combined kindergarten-first grades next fall. It would feature more hands-on group projects driven by student interests. Yet core subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic would still be incorporated throughout school activities.
Madison’s stubborn teachers union has long been suspicious of charter schools. The union has taken a defensive position that presumes the very suggestion of a charter school implies that traditional schools are somehow inadequate.
The union shouldn’t feel insecure. Our traditional Wisconsin public schools do many great things in the face of daunting challenges. Yet public education can and must get better and try new things — even if some attempts fail.

District Cool to Third Charter School

Danya Hooker:

A proposal to open a third charter school in Madison is too costly and lacks educational research support, the Madison School District administration said, even as it announced a projected $10.5 million shortfall in next year’s budget.
“We (the administration) believe the proposal is not complete enough and does not contain enough detail about how the school would operate this fall,” Superintendent Art Rainwater said.
Organizers for the Studio School, which would have an arts and technology focus, asked for funding for 2 full-time teachers. Nancy Donahue, lead organizer for the school, estimated first-year costs to be about $35,000 if the school shared a principal and administrative costs with a host school such as the under- capacity Emerson Elementary School.
Rainwater said the administration believes shared principals are far from ideal. He said paying for another principal and administrative staff could cost the district nearly $5 million over five years.

More on the Madison Studio School.

“Do you want innovative public school options in Madison?

If you do, then your support of The Studio School charter school proposal is critical. Please let the school board know. Write letters. Email them []. Call them. Attend the meeting on January 22nd! I have heard from a board member that if the “pressure” to vote for opening this school in the fall isn’t strong enough, board members will not vote in favor of this proposal January 29th.
The opportunity to offer this innovative educational option with the possibility of up to $450,000.00 of federal funding over the next two years will not be available to MMSD again.
For more information to find out how to help, community members are invited to join us for our planning group’s general meeting on January 17th (this Wednesday) at 6:30 PM at the Sequoya Branch of the Public Library [Map]. You can also go to our website for more information.

Madison Studio Charter School: A Final Push – You can Help

Dear Supporters of The Studio School:
As you probably know, we met with the MMSD Board members last Wednesday and are satisfied with how the Board meeting went. Many individuals took the opportunity to speak at the meeting and each of them did a fantastic job! THE OUTCOME OF THE MEETING IS THAT WE NEED TO PREPARE A RESPONSE TO THEIR QUESTIONS and have very limited time to accomplish this since they need to have it by January 18th. So here’s our plan:
We need to put together three short-term task forces:

  1. “money team” to work on the budget and financing
    • Determine what an accurate and detailed representation of costs and revenues would look like and fill in the numbers.
    • Consider creative ways to finance the school with the implementation grant Help! We need more school finance expertise for this one.
    • We still need money to file for tax exempt status ($750) Help! If we could get a/some contributions to cover this cost, we have found an attorney who will file it pro bono…
    • So if we could get a sizable donation to get this school started since the district’s finances are in such a bad state, the Board would be more favorably disposed to our proposal. (This would be added to federal grant funds of $340,000.)
  2. “people team” to reach out to a more diverse population (Kristin Forde is going to organize this.)
    Meet with or provide information to people we haven’t had an opportunity to connect with so we can share information about the school and encourage them to attend the January 22nd meeting to express support and interest in The Studio School Help! We could use some marketing expertise.

  3. “plan team” to develop a clearer description of the school and how it would actually work, including the technology
    Develop a more detailed implementation plan and a clearer representation of how it will operate and look. Help! I can work on this but I would like some people (parents, educators, interested parties) to collaborate with me in order to figure out how to communicate it more clearly.

If you or anyone you know can help out over the next few weeks, please have them contact me. This is our last opportunity to pull it all together and make The Studio School a choice for Madison children – this means that we need to start the new year ready to get it done.
We have made it to this point because of the dedication and hard work of our core planning group and the assistance and support from people like you. We are almost there! A “final push” kickoff meeting is scheduled for January 3rd at 6:00…location to be determined. After that, we have two weeks to get it all done. So please let me know ASAP if you, or someone you know, can lend us a hand.
Thank you for your continued support. We are looking forward to celebrating and sharing our success in February after the final vote on January 29th!
Nancy Donahue
The Studio School, Inc.

The State of the City’s Schools

Superintendent Art Rainwater and Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. discuss the state of Madison’s public schools with Stuart Levitan.

Watch the video | MP3 Audio

Topics discussed include:

  • School Safety
  • The November 7, 2006 Referendum
  • School funding
  • “Education is not one size fits all” – Johnny during a discussion of the initiatives underway within the school district (the last 12 minutes) such as online learning, the Studio School and differentiation.
  • Levitan asked Art Rainwater if, during his 8 years as Superintendent, the education our children receive is better than it was in 1998? Art said it was and cited a number of examples.


Wisconsin CHARTER SCHOOL NEWS: Week of August 21

DPI Awards $4 Million in Charter School Grants
WCSA’s New Office — The WCSA is now located in a new office in downtown Madison. The WCSA’s new address, phone, fax and email is — Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, P.O. Box 1704, Madison, WI 53703 & Tel: 608-661-6946 & Fax: 608-258-3413 & Email: WCSA website:
WCSA’s New Directors & Officers — The WCSA Board of Directors has elected its officers for 2006-07 — President Tom Scullen, Appleton; Vice-President Barbara Horton, Milwaukee; Secretary Sandra Mills, Menasha; and Treasurer Jim Morgan, Madison. The WCSA is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors
State Legislature’s Special Study Committee on Charter Schools schedules initial meeting on September 26 —
Charter School to Focus on Health Science & Technology


Create public ARTS school in Madison

Please help to make  THE STUDIO SCHOOL  —  an option for parents and children within the public school district.
You’re invited to attend a planning meeting of local parents, educators, community leaders and others:   
Date:    July 19 ( Wednesday )
Time:    6:00 – 8:00 pm 
Site:     MADISON Library – Sequoya Branch
513 South Midvalle Blvd. [Map]  — 
See the summary description of the proposed school  —   executive summary
BRYAN GRAU, co-founder of Nuestro Mundo Community (charter) School in Madison, has been invited to the July 19 meeting to discuss the charter school authorization and implementation process.
Here’s additional background info for your review …..  
Creating a Charter School  — 
DPI – Charter Schools in Wisconsin — 
Academy of Fine Arts  — 
Reggio Emilia-based Schools  — 
The Growing Place  — 
The Arts & Technology Academy  — 
PreSchool of the Arts  — 
Elements of Effective Charter Schools  — 
Please RSVP to:
Wisconsin Charter Schools Association
P.O. Box 628243
Middleton, WI 53562
  Tel: 608-238-7491   Fax: 608-663-5262
  Email:   Web:

Charter Schools?

In light of the planning grant application approval for the proposed Studio School Charter yesterday, I’m curious about how others view public charters and what their roles should be.
Here are some different conceptions that I’ve heard or read (I’m sure there are many more and I’d be glad to hear about those):

  1. Charters as laboratories for innovations that can be replicated in other district schools.
  2. Charters as a means of of addressing the needs or desires of self-defined populations.
  3. Charters as a first step toward replacing the current system with a system of semi-autonomous schools.

Related questions include: How should charters and charter proposals be evaluated?

Charter Schools in Wisconsin

Madison School Board OK’s charter school of arts applying for DPI planning grant.  See The Studio School Website
Converting to Healthy Living Charter School
Governor Proclaims May 1 – 6, 2006 as Charter Schools Week in Wisconsin
Charter Schools about Social Justice, says Fuller
What is Chartering and Where Did It Come From?
DPI’s NEW 2005-06 Charter Schools Directory   (Under “Charter School Information” on right side of page, click “2005–06 Directory” (pdf)


Madison School Board to Vote on a Proposed Charter Elementary School of Arts & Technology

The Madison Board of Education is scheduled to act on Monday evening (4/24) on a request relating to a proposed charter elementary school of arts and technology.
The Board will vote on whether or not to support a grant application to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for funds to support planning of The Studio School by a group of educators, parents and others. See info about The Studio School, including the proposed planning grant application at: .
The Board’s meeting, which begins at 5:00 pm, will be held in the McDaniel’s Auditorium at the district offices at 545 West Dayton Street. [map]