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Sensenbrenner on Connected Math

Running some searches recently, I came across this April, 2004 article by Lee Sensenbrenner on Connected Math. The words remain timely more than two years later:

A seventh-grader at a Madison middle school is posed with the following situation: A gas station sells soda in three sizes. A 20-ounce cup costs 80 cents, a 32-ounce cup is 90 cents and a 64-ouncer goes for $1.25.
The first question, which appeared in similar form on a recent exam, is as traditional as any mathematical story problem: What size offers the most soda for the money?
But the second question carries the spirit of the Connected Math Program, which has developed strong undercurrents of controversy – both here and nationally – and plays prominently in one of the Madison School Board races Tuesday.
This question asks: If the gas station were to offer an 84-ounce Mega Swig, what would you expect to pay for it?
There’s really no concrete answer. A student, for instance, could argue that the 84-ouncer would cost what the 20-ounce and 64-ounce cups cost together. Another student could say that soda gets cheaper with volume, and then choose an answer based on some per-ounce price slightly less than what was given for the 64-ounce drink.
For the people fighting an impassioned battle over Connected Math, the differences between question number one and question number two are not subtle or inconsequential.
On one side, those who support Connected Math say that engaging students by presenting problems as real-life scenarios – often with no absolute solution or single path to arrive at an answer – fosters innovation and forces students to explain and defend their reasoning as they discover mathematical concepts.
The other side says the approach trades the clear, fundamental concepts of math, distilled through thousands of years of logical reasoning, for verbiage and vagary that may help students learn to debate but will not give them the foundation they need for more advanced mathematical study.

Many links and articles on math can be found here. The recent Math Forum is also worth checking out, along with a discussion of the District’s math performance.

I’m told that the MMSD’s math curriculum will be getting some attention this fall. We’ll see (35 of 37 UW Math Faculty Open Letter on Math).

My largest concern with Connected Math – having read some of the books is that we’re training the students to be consumers, not creative types (figure out the phone bill, count the cheerios, buy a soda, etc.). TeacherL made a great point recently: We can choose to be consumers or we can choose to be citizens. I know which one I think will provide the stronger future for our country.”

Analysis of Connected Math and Core Plus Textbooks

A reader deep into math issues emailed these two reviews of curriculum currently used within the Madison School District:

  • Connected Math (Middle School); R. James Milgram:

    The philosophy used throughout the program is that the students should entirely construct their own knowledge and that calculators are to always be available for calculation. This means that

    • standard algorithms are never introduced, not even for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions
    • precise definitions are never given
    • repetitive practice for developing skills, such as basic manipulative skills is never given. Consequently, in the seventh and eighth grade booklets on algebra, there is no development of the standard skills needed to solve linear equations, no practice with simplifying polynomials or quotients of polynomials, no discussion of things as basic as the standard exponent rules
    • throughout the booklets, topics are introduced, usually in a single problem and almost always indirectly — topics which, in traditional texts are basic and will have an entire chapter devoted to them — and then are dropped, never to be mentioned again. (Examples will be given throughout the detailed analysis which follows.)
    • in the booklets on probability and data analysis a huge amount of time is spent learning rather esoteric methods for representing data, such as stem and leaf plots, and very little attention is paid to topics like the use and misuse of statistics. Statistics, in and of itself, is not that important in terms of mathematical development. The main reason it is in the curriculum is to provide students with the means to understand common uses of statistics and to be able to understand when statistical arguments are being used correctly.

  • Core Plus (some high schools); R. James Milgram and Kim Mackey:

    In a recent issue of the NCTM Dialogues, Prof. R. Askey comments on a particular and remarkably inept misunderstanding in CorePlus, of some basic methods in probability Prof. R. Askey’s comments on a problem with Core Plus.
    Recently, Core Plus has begun to appear in the Minnesota High Schools, with the usual results, including servere questions from parents and the withdrawal of a significant number of students from the school system. This has also prompted a number of independent analyses of the program by other professional mathematicians. Here are the comments of Larry Gray, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. A Sample List of Mathematical Errors in the Core Plus program.

“Connected” Math problems: Brandon, Michigan School District underperformed compared to county average

Susan Bromley:

On average, less than one-third of students in third through eighth grades in the “>(Brandon) district are proficient in mathematics, according to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.

MEAP scores released last month showed 28 percent of third grade students are proficient in math, compared with 40.2 percent statewide and 51 percent in the county. The gap grows larger by fourth grade. While the district showed 30 percent proficient in math at this grade, it was still behind the state at 45.3 percent, and far behind the county at 57 percent proficient.

Scores for science (tested in fifth and eighth grades) and social studies (tested in sixth and ninth grades) are even more dismal.

Less than 50 percent of district students tested proficient in writing in both fourth and seventh grades. The district’s strongest MEAP scores came in reading, ranging from 62 percent proficient in third grade, 55 percent proficient in seventh grade, to 77 percent proficient in eighth grade.

In every subject tested, at every grade level, district students underperformed compared to the county average, by as much as up to 27 percentage points. The district was also under the state averages at math for every grade level tested. The district did outperform the state average in reading for every grade tested besides seventh, and also did better than the state average in seventh grade writing, eighth grade science, and ninth grade social studies.

The district plans to be better prepared for whatever that test is with the board approval of $175,000 worth of new math materials for kindergarten through eighth grades. The materials, to be purchased at the end of this year, are the first new mathematics curriculum to be purchased at the elementary level in 12 years. Kindergarten through fifth grades will be using “Bridges” math curriculum, and sixth through eighth grades will use “Connected Math Project” to support the common core curriculum. Teacher representatives from all grade levels examined materials from several companies and selected Bridges and CMP as the best after sampling them in the classrooms and consulting with Geri Devine, a math consultant from Oakland Schools and district parent.

The materials are not traditional type textbooks, McMahon said, but for 6-8, bound books that each contain a unit of study, notebook like in size and shape. At the elementary level, the new materials are consumables, exercises and activities that a certain amount will have to be replaced yearly at a cost of roughly $20,000-$25,000.

“With the new materials, we should see an increase in scores,” McMahon said. “The publishers will give mathematics professional development and the district is also planning more professional development in the area of math, with instruction by expert users of the materials and those who have a proven track record for improving mathematical competency.”

Much more on Connected Math, here.

Connected Math in Olympia, WA

Education Wonks:

After a number of parents and teachers objected, the school board of Olympia, Washington, has ignored an administrative recommendation to adopt a constructivist math program for their middle schoolers:

Connected Math and the Madison School District was discussed at a recent math forum (audio / video).
UW Emeritus Math Professor Dick Askey wrote a followup article on test scores and the local math curriculum.
The MMSD is currently looking for a “Coordinator of Mathematics“.
Clusty Connected Math Search.

Converting hundreds of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach into mathematical networks reveals that they store lots of information and convey it very effectively

By Karmela Padavic-Callaghan

Kulkarni and her colleagues also used information networks to compare Bach’s music with listeners’ perception of it. They started with an existing computer model based on experiments in which participants reacted to a sequence of images on a screen. The researchers then measured how surprising an element of the sequence was. They adapted information networks based on this model to the music, with the links between each node representing how probable a listener thought it would be for two connected notes to play successively – or how surprised they would be if that happened. Because humans do not learn information perfectly, networks showing people’s presumed note changes for a composition rarely line up exactly with the network based directly on that composition. Researchers can then quantify that mismatch.

In this case, the mismatch was low, suggesting Bach’s pieces convey information rather effectively. However, Kulkarni hopes to fine-tune the computer model of human perception to better match real brain scans of people listening to the music.

Math & Progress

Eliminating 8th grade algebra in the name of equity.

Harrison Bergeron

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Math Curriculum

Sharon Lurye:

A few years ago she shifted her approach, turning to more direct explanation after finding a website on a set of evidence-based practices known as the science of math.

“I could see how the game related to multiplication, but the kids weren’t making those connections,” said Stark, a math teacher in the suburbs of Kansas City. “You have to explicitly teach the content.”

As American schools work to turn around math scores that plunged during the pandemic, some researchers are pushing for more attention to a set of research-based practices for teaching math. The movement has passionate backers, but is still in its infancy, especially compared with the phonics-based “science of reading” that has inspired changes in how classrooms across the country approach literacy.

Math forum audio/video.

Singapore Math

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Remedial math

Madison’s math review task force.

UC faculty speak out against reduced math rigor

Wesley Crocket:

Faculty members in the University of California (UC) system have begun to speak out against their campuses’ adoption of lower math standards in order to bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The controversy surrounds a policy enacted by a UC committee in 2020, which changed the admissions requirements for high school applicants in order “to expand course offerings beyond the traditional sequence of math courses that may lead students into the ‘race to calculus,’ to be more inclusive of new and innovative advanced math courses (e.g., data science), and to address equity issues.”

Math forum audio/video.

Singapore Math

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Remedial math

Madison’s math review task force.

Refusing to teach kids math will not improve equity

Noah Smith:

“The result of the educative process is capacity for further education.” — John Dewey

A couple of weeks ago, Armand Domalewski wrote a guest post for Noahpinion about how the new California Math Framework threatened to dumb down math education in the state — for example, by forbidding kids from taking algebra before high school:

Well, I’m going to write another post about this subject, because the direction in which math education is trending in America under “progressive” guidance just frustrates me so deeply. 

A few days after Armand’s post, the new California Math Framework was adopted. Some of the worst provisions had been thankfully watered down, but the basic strategy of trying to delay the teaching of subjects like algebra remained. It’s a sign that the so-called “progressive” approach to math education championed by people like Stanford’s Jo Boaler has not yet engendered a critical mass of pushback. 

And meanwhile, the idea that teaching kids less math will create “equity” has spread far beyond the Golden State. The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts recently removed algebra and all advanced math from its junior high schools, on similar “equity” grounds.

It is difficult to find words to describe how bad this idea is without descending into abject rudeness. The idea that offering children fewer educational resources through the public school system will help the poor kids catch up with rich ones, or help the Black kids catch up with the White and Asian ones, is unsupported by any available evidence of which I am aware. More fundamentally, though, it runs counter to the whole reason that public schools exist in the first place.

The idea behind universal public education is that all children — or almost all, making allowance for those with severe learning disabilities — are fundamentally educable. It is the idea that there is some set of subjects — reading, writing, basic mathematics, etc. — that essentially all children can learn, if sufficient resources are invested in teaching them.

Related: Madison’s various one size fits all schemes:

Connected Math

Discovery math:

Not, Singapore math, however.

Forcing maths on teenagers is cruel and counterproductive: Rishi Sunak would be better focusing on primary schools than making students study the subject to age 18Forcing maths on teenagers is cruel and counterproductive:

Lucy Kellaway:

Some years ago, shortly before I left the Financial Times, I gave a talk at a literary event in Oxford. Put up your hand, I said to the audience, if you are useless at maths — whereupon the arms of around a third of them shot into the air. At the time, I wrote a column saying something had gone badly wrong when so many people in one of the most intellectually rarefied towns on the planet were not only dunces at maths but wore their inadequacy as if it were a charming quirk.

This week, the prime minister made the same point when he railed against the country’s “anti-maths mindset”. Rishi Sunak’s solution is to force all teenagers to study the subject until they are 18; mine was to roll my sleeves up and become a maths teacher myself.

The difference between our approaches is that mine did no harm. I tried my hardest to get teenagers to learn probability and algebra but after a year, with the relief that comes from deciding to do what you love, I switched to teaching economics and business instead. Sunak’s scheme may be equally well intentioned, but coercing students to go on doing what they hate will be ruinously expensive, counterproductive and borderline cruel.

Sunak, whose formative experience of maths was from his own school days at Winchester, would have done well to visit me as I entirely failed to teach standard-form maths to a Year 10 bottom set in an inner London comp. He would have witnessed a struggling student asking the million-dollar question: “Miss, why are we doing this?” There was no earthly reason. None of them would ever need standard form again. Surely Sunak would have seen that his first task was to do something about the 30 per cent of students nationally who fail to get the lowest pass at maths GCSE.

These teenagers are now required to retake the exam over and over until they pass or turn 18 — with the result that 100,000 students each year will have spent two years notching up successive failures, leaving most of them at 18 feeling they are not only failures at maths, but at life.


Remedial math at the University of Wisconsin.

“used surveys in early 2020 to assess how students felt in their math classes and what teachers thought about their own efforts to help students feel like they belong”

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here.

Discovery Math

Connected math.

Singapore Math

Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Notes on math education

Summer Allen:

A new study finds that high school students identify more with math if they see their math teacher treating everyone in the class equitably, especially in racially diverse schools. The study by researchers at Portland State University, Loyola University Chicago and the University of North Texas was published in the journal Sociology of Education. Dara Shifrer, associate professor of sociology at Portland State and former middle school math teacher, led the study.

Who can do well in math? How you answer that question may depend on where you live. Whereas people in East Asian countries tend to believe that hard work can lead anyone to succeed at math, people in the United States are more likely to believe that people need natural talent in the subject to succeed. This perception means that students in the U.S. may be particularly susceptible to racial and gender stereotypes about who is and is not “good at math.”

“Americans don’t realize what strange stereotypes we have about math,” says Shifrer. “It really sets kids up for failure here.”

The fact that some high school students are more likely to give up on math than others has important implications for their individual futures and for the lack of diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here.

Discovery Math

Connected math.

Singapore Math

Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Notes on Parents and Math Rigor

Ellen Gamerman:

On, a site promoting a Soviet-era style of math instruction, a sample question involves Masha, a mom who bakes a batch of unmarked pies: three rice, three bean and three cherry. The student must determine how Masha can find a cherry pie “by biting into as few tasteless pies as possible.”

While Masha is biting pies, American parents are eating it up.

In the smarter, faster, better quest that is child-rearing in the United States, goal-oriented moms and dads eager to give their children an academic edge have long looked beyond U.S. borders for math education. Singapore math promotes concept mastery and critical thinking. Japanese math espouses the discipline of daily study. Now, another turbocharged math style is having its moment. Russian math, which uses reasoning and abstract concepts to build understanding, is lighting up parent group chats as the country emerges from a pandemic that left children zoning out over Zoom and schools prioritizing social-emotional recovery over homework.

“I always think for students it’s great to aim higher,” said Andrea Campbell, a mother from Newcastle, Calif. Her three children have studied with $20-an-hour instructors from Russian Math Tutors for the past two years as they pursue math competitions. “For math, you can’t do enough.”

Math Forum Audio / Video

Madison’s Math Task Force


(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

Related: Singapore Math.

Discovery Math.

Connected Math.

Math education outcomes: credit card edition

Sumit Agarwal, Andrea Presbitero, André F. Silva, and Carlo Wix:

We study credit card rewards as an ideal laboratory to quantify the cross-subsidy from naive to sophisticated consumers in retail financial markets. Using granular data on the near universe of credit card accounts in the United States, we find that sophisticated consumers profit from reward credit cards at the expense of naive consumers who lose money both in absolute terms and relative to classic cards. We estimate an aggregate annual cross-subsidy of $15.5 billion. Notably, our results are not driven by income—while sophisticated high-income consumers benefit the most, naive high-income consumers pay the most. Banks lure consumers into the use of reward cards by offering lower interest rates than on comparable classic cards and bank profits are highest for borrowers in the middle of the credit score distribution. We show that credit card rewards transfer wealth from less to more educated, from poorer to richer, from rural to urban, and from high to low minority areas, thereby widening existing spatial disparities.

Math Forum audio video.

Connected math

Singapore Math

Discovery math

How One School Is Beating the Odds in Math, the Pandemic’s Hardest-Hit Subject:
Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Connecticut overhauled the way it taught — and the way it ran the classroom. Every minute counted

Sarah Mervosh:

It’s just after lunchtime, and Dori Montano’s fifth-grade math class is running on a firm schedule.

In one corner of the classroom, Ms. Montano huddles with a small group of students, working through a lesson about place value: Is 23.4 or 2.34 the bigger number? Nearby, other students collaborate to solve a “math mystery.” All the while, Ms. Montano watches the time.

At 1:32 p.m., she presses a buzzer, sending students shuffling: “Ladies and gentleman, switch please!”

This is what pandemic recovery looks like at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Meriden, Conn., where students are showing promising progress in math, a subject that was hit hard during the shift to remote learning, even more so than reading.

The school’s math progress may not look like much: a small improvement amounting to a single decimal point increase from spring 2019 to the spring of this year, according to state test results.

But by pandemic standards, it was something of a minor miracle, holding steady when test scores nationally have fallen, particularly among low-income, Black and Hispanic students, the children that Franklin serves. About three in four students at the school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and a majority are Hispanic, Black or multiracial.

The groundwork was laid before the pandemic, when Franklin overhauled how math was taught.

It added as much as 30 minutes of math instruction a day. Students in second grade and above now have more than an hour, and fourth and fifth graders have a full 90 minutes, longer than is typical for many schools. Students no longer have lessons dominated by a teacher writing problems on a white board in front of the class. Instead, they spend more time wrestling with problems in small groups. And, for the first time, children who are behind receive math tutoring during the school day.

Related: math forum audio and video

Discovery math

Connected math

Singapore math

Controversy Rages as California Follows SF’s Lead With New Approach to Teaching Math

Joe Hong:

At the heart of the wrangling lies a broad agreement about at least one thing:
The way California public schools teach math isn’t working. On national standardized tests, California ranks in the bottom quartile among all states and U.S. territories for 8th grade math scores.

Yet for all the sound and fury, the proposed framework, about 800-pages long, is little more than a set of suggestions. Its designers are revising it now and will subject it to 60 more days of public review. Once it’s approved in July, districts may adopt as much or as little of the framework as they choose — and can disregard it completely without any penalty.

“It’s not mandated that you use the framework,” said framework team member Dianne Wilson, a program specialist at Elk Grove Unified. “There’s a concern that it will be implemented unequally.”

K-12 Math links:

“Discovery math” (Seattle lawsuit)

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level math placement?

Connected Math.

Singapore Math

Math forum

“California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way”

Signatories: 1,105 as of November 5, 2021

California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. Its proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students. As textbooks and other teaching materials approved by the State would have to follow this framework and since teachers are expected to use it as a guide, its potential to steal a promising future from our children is enormous.

The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology. A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math. The proposed framework:

  • Promotes fringe teaching methods such as “trauma-informed pedagogy.” [ch. 2, p. 16]
  • Distracts from actual mathematics by having teachers insert “environmental and social justice” into the math curriculum. [ch. 1, p. 35]
  • Distracts from actual mathematics by having teachers develop students’ “sociopolitical consciousness.” [ch. 2, p. 39
  • Distracts from actual mathematics by assigning students—as schoolwork—tasks it says will solve “problems that result in social inequalities.” [ch. 7, p. 29
  • Urges teachers to take a “justice-oriented perspective at any grade level, K–12” and explicitly rejects the idea that mathematics itself is a “neutral discipline.” [ch. 2, p. 29
  • Encourages focusing on “contributions that historically marginalized people have made to mathematics” rather than on those contributions themselves which have been essential to the academic discipline of mathematics. [ch. 2, p. 31]
  • “Reject[s] ideas of natural gifts and talents” and discourages accelerating talented mathematics students. [ch. 1, p. 8]
  • Encourages keeping all students together in the same math program until the 11th grade and argues that offering differentiated programs causes student “fragility” and racial animosity. [ch.1, p. 15]
  • Rejects the longstanding goal of preparing students to take Algebra I in eighth grade, on par with high-performing foreign countries whose inhabitants will be future competitors of America’s children—a goal explicitly part of the 1999 and 2006 Math Frameworks. [ch. 9, p. 43]

We, the undersigned, disagree. Mathematics is a discipline whose language is universally accessible with good teaching. The claim that math is not accessible is an insult to the millennia of non-Western mathematicians and erases the contributions of cultures around the world to mathematics as we now know it. Large numbers of students in developing countries are currently succeeding in advanced mathematics, and American industries have been put in the position of having to encourage them to come to the United States to work.

K-12 Math links:

“Discovery math” (Seattle lawsuit)

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level math placement?

Connected Math.

Singapore Math

Math forum

America’s math curricular decline

The Economist:

America has a maths problem. Its pupils have ranked poorly in international maths exams for decades. In 2018, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in the oecd, a club of mostly rich countries. American adults ranked fourth-from-last in numeracy when compared with other rich countries. As many as 30% of American adults are comfortable only with simple maths: basic arithmetic, counting, sorting and similar tasks. American employers are desperate for science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills: nuclear engineers, software developers and machinists are in short supply. And while pupils’ maths scores are bad enough now, they could be getting worse. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (naep), a national exam, 13-year-old pupils’ scores dropped five points in 2020 compared with their peers’ in 2012. The status quo does not add up. But teachers and academics cannot agree on where to go next.

K-12 Math links:

“Discovery math” (Seattle lawsuit)

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level math placement?

Connected Math.

Singapore Math

Math forum

Proposed guidelines in California would de-emphasize calculus, reject the idea that some children are naturally gifted and build a connection to social justice. Critics say math shouldn’t be political.

Jacey Fortin:

If everything had gone according to plan, California would have approved new guidelines this month for math education in public schools.

But ever since a draft was opened for public comment in February, the recommendations have set off a fierce debate over not only how to teach math, but also how to solve a problem more intractable than Fermat’s last theorem: closing the racial and socioeconomic disparities in achievement that persist at every level of math education.

The California guidelines, which are not binding, could overhaul the way many school districts approach math instruction. The draft rejected the idea of naturally gifted children, recommended against shifting certain students into accelerated courses in middle school and tried to promote high-level math courses that could serve as alternatives to calculus, like data science or statistics.

The draft also suggested that math should not be colorblind and that teachers could use lessons to explore social justice — for example, by looking out for gender stereotypes in word problems, or applying math concepts to topics like immigration or inequality.

K-12 Math links:
“Discovery math” (Seattle lawsuit)

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level math placement?

Math forum

“used surveys in early 2020 to assess how students felt in their math classes and what teachers thought about their own efforts to help students feel like they belong”

Scott Girard:

Key findings include that classroom and school belonging are distinct and that teachers with more confidence in their ability to teach math had a stronger sense of classroom belonging among their students. The research also found there was no systematic difference in math classroom belonging across racial/ethnic groups or by gender.

“I’m heartened to know that second finding, that teachers’ sense of their efficacy has an impact on kids,” said Madison Metropolitan School District executive director of research and innovation Beth Vaade. “That’s what we want, we want to know as educators that what we do in a classroom is going to be connected to what scholars feel.”

MEP, which is a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MMSD, initially hoped to use observations and interviews with students and staff to complement the data from the surveys. But the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that extra step, something researcher and MEP co-director Eric Grodsky called “disappointing.”

Specifically, they explored that feeling in middle school math classrooms. Grodsky said that decision came partly because of the “stereotype threat” surrounding the subject, with the assumption that women and students of color are worse at math creating a psychological threat as soon as they enter a classroom. MMSD STEM director Patti Schaefer said math was an “appealing” subject for this type of research.

“We see math as I’m either a math person or I’m not, a very split way of seeing ourselves in math,” Schaefer said.

To measure belonging, researchers surveyed 1,887 students and 60 teachers at five MMSD middle schools.

Math curriculum/rigor and student performance are not new topics. A few links: Connected Math, Discovery Math, Math Task Force, 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math, UW-LaCrosse’s Remedial Math Courses and Math forum.

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? (Traditional math curriculum students placed higher).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Colleges Learning Costly Woke Math in the Courtroom School of Hard Knocks

Steve Miller:

As they reel from revenue losses connected to the pandemic, many colleges and universities are racking up other costs not likely to turn up in their glossy brochures or as line items on staggering tuition bills: untold millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements for allegedly violating the rights of students, professors, and applicants on free speech, admissions and other matters as the schools pursue social justice causes.

Harvard University’s legal costs fighting a continuing 2017 challenge to its racial admissions practices have surpassed $25 million, the cap of its primary insurer, and it is now suing a secondary legal insurer, the Zurich American Insurance Company, over its refusal to pick up the tab going forward.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had spent more than $16.8 million by the end of 2018, and its costs have only grown as it, like Harvard, continues defending admissions policies allegedly favoring blacks and Hispanics over whites and Asians.

Challenges to alleged free-speech violations, which have plagued universities for decades, continue to grow with a heightened grievance culture. 

The University of California San Diego in 2019 paid nearly $1 million after a four-year court fight over its move to defund student media because of a school newspaper piece satirizing “safe spaces.”

“Social Justice Math” & California

Joanne Jacobs:

California’s new Mathematics Curriculum Framework has become a political hot potato, reports Lawrence Richard on Yahoo News. The state education board will postpone a decision on implementation for 10 months in response to critics who charged it would “de-mathematize math” and prevent high achievers from taking advanced classes.

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Replace the Proposed New California Math Curriculum Framework

Independent Institute:

California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. Its proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students. As textbooks and other teaching materials approved by the State would have to follow this framework and since teachers are expected to use it as a guide, its potential to steal a promising future from our children is enormous.

The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology. A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math. The proposed framework:

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

The impact of a lack of mathematical education on brain development and future attainment

George Zacharopoulos, Francesco Sella & Roi Cohen Kadosh:

Formal education has a long-term impact on an individual’s life. However, our knowledge of the effect of a specific lack of education, such as in mathematics, is currently poor but is highly relevant given the extant differences between countries in their educational curricula and the differences in opportunities to access education. Here we examined whether neurotransmitter concentrations in the adolescent brain could classify whether a student is lacking mathematical education. Decreased γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentration within the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) successfully classified whether an adolescent studies math and was negatively associated with frontoparietal connectivity. In a second experiment, we uncovered that our findings were not due to preexisting differences before a mathematical education ceased. Furthermore, we showed that MFG GABA not only classifies whether an adolescent is studying math or not, but it also predicts the changes in mathematical reasoning ∼19 mo later. The present results extend previous work in animals that has emphasized the role of GABA neurotransmission in synaptic and network plasticity and highlight the effect of a specific lack of education on MFG GABA concentration and learning-dependent plasticity. Our findings reveal the reciprocal effect between brain development and education and demonstrate the negative consequences of a specific lack of education during adolescence on brain plasticity and cognitive functions.

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Elizabeth Green:

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

2006: Math Forum audio video

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Commentary on Virginia’s planned advanced math course reductions

Caroline Downey:

Democratic Virginia state Senator J. Chapman Petersen is one of many parents voicing concerns about a new racial equity push that would eliminate certain advanced placement classes in the state’s mathematics curriculum.

The Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative (VMPI) would replace the traditional mathematics progression of Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 courses with courses that teach so-called “essential” topics. Under the plan, all students would take the same courses through the tenth grade but would then be allowed to enroll in classes that correspond with their post-graduation career plans.

A major goal of the VMPI is to combat disparities in educational outcomes between racial and ethnic minorities. However, many Northern Virginia parents are mobilizing to reject the program, claiming that the new “pathway” will inhibit higher-achieving students and discourage academic exploration and performance among all kids, including the racial minorities the program is designed to help.

Related: Connected Math Discovery Math

There Is No Such Thing as “White” Math

Sergiu Klainerman:

I am not at all qualified to introduce today’s guest writer, Sergiu Klainerman.

I barely eked out a C+ in high school calculus, while Sergiu is a professor of mathematics at Princeton who specializes in the mathematical theory of black holes. He’s been a MacArthur fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences 

Mathematics allowed a young Sergiu, who came of age in Ceausescu’s Romania, to escape to a world where right and wrong couldn’t be fudged, and, ultimately, to a life of freedom in the United States. Without math, his life quite literally would not have been possible.

In the piece below he explains how activists are destroying his discipline in the name of progress. Worse, they are robbing poor children of the opportunity to raise themselves up by mastering it — with untold effects on all of us.

Math, with its seemingly unbiased tools — 2 + 2 always equals 4 — has presented a problem for an ideological movement that sees any inequality of outcome as evidence of systemic bias. The problem cannot be that some kids are better at math, or that some teachers are better at teaching it. Like so much else, the basic woke argument against math is that it is inherently racist and needs to be made antiracist. That is accomplished by undermining the notion of right and wrong answers, by getting rid of the expectation that students show their work, by referring to mathematical testing tools as racist, and by doing away with accelerated math classes.

If that sounds like a caricature, I urge you to read this whole document, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Sergiu writes about below. As the linguist John McWhorter put it in a powerful piece published yesterday: “to distrust this document is not to be against social justice, but against racism.”

Sergiu wrote me in an email that the situation in his field reminds him of this line from Thomas Sowell: “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

This week, as promised, is education week. Like Shark Week! But dorkier. And, I hope, far more important. This is our first installment.

I’m pleased to publish Sergiu Klainerman:

In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover.

I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school.

This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses.

Unlike the traditional totalitarianism practiced by former communist countries, like the Romania I grew up in, this version is soft. It enforces its ideology not by jailing dissenters or physically eliminating them, but by social shaming, mob punishment, guilt by association, and coerced speech.

When it comes to education, I believe the woke ideology is even more harmful than old-fashioned communism.

Communism had a strong sense of objective reality anchored in the belief that humans are capable of discovering universal truths. It forcefully asserted, in fact, the absolute truth of dialectic materialism, as revealed by its founders Marx, Engels and Lenin. Communist ideology held science and mathematics in the highest regard, even though it often distorted the former for doctrinal reasons. 

Mathematics was largely immune to ideological pressure, and thus thrived in most communist countries. Being skilled in math was a source of great societal prestige for school children. And it was a great equalizer: those from socioeconomically disadvantaged families had a chance to compete on equal footing with those from privileged ones.


Math Forum audio / video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Why are Soviet mathematics/physics textbooks so insanely hardcore in comparison to US textbooks?

Scott Miller:

There are a lot of good points being made in this thread. I have had a theory that it is in part related to the funding available for lab equipment and computers. During the latter half of the 20th century, in Russia you were very lucky to get access to a “real” computer.

I spent some time in 1992 in Protvino, RU, a science city of (at the time) some 20,000 scientists and engineers. The city hadn’t been listed on any official map from the USSR, even though it had existed since 1958; it was devoted to a large synchrotron. I was really struck by the contrast between the super-abundance of material resources to get the job done in the US and EU, vs. the creativity and thought by the Russians. At the risk of oversimplifying, I noticed that because of the traditional scarcity of equipment, Russian students and scientists had to think rather than experiment, whether with computers or accelerators; it was often all that was available to them.

For instance, there was much more of an effort in Protvino to repurpose equipment than to have new equipment machined as I had seen at FermiLab or CERN. The rank and file Russian engineers that I saw in the ’90s were using a home-grown knockoff of the Intel 8088 series. The managers got imported IBM XTs. At the same time in the US working on the SSC, on my desk I had a SuperSPARC minicomputer, a Mac, and an HP 80486 Windows machine, as well as access to a twin Hypercube.

As a result, “computer experiments” like Monte Carlo simulation were not used very often in Protvino except by those for whom it was essential (and often not even then – such experiments were usually pushed down so far in the queue that they never got executed). Rather, there was much more emphasis on closed-form or approximate analytical solutions. Coding up a simulation and having a computer torture it until it confessed the results you wanted certainly takes talent, but it is arguably a different kind of talent than thinking deeply about the problem itself. Thinking about the simulation often leads to thinking that improves the computing methods and hardware used. Thinking about the problem itself gives insight into the nature of the problem itself and its connections with other areas of study.

Related: Connected Mathd Singapore Math

1965 Madison School District Math 9 Textbook Committee

Madison’s most recent Math Task Force

Remedial Math at the UW-Madison.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Its Cars [Math Education…]

Ben Eisen & Adrienne Roberts:

Mr. Jones, now 22 years old, walked out with a gray Accord sedan with heated leather seats. He also took home a 72-month car loan that cost him and his then-girlfriend more than $500 a month. When they split last year and the monthly payment fell solely to him, it suddenly took up more than a quarter of his take-home pay.

He paid $27,000 for the car, less than the sticker price, but took out a $36,000 loan with an interest rate of 1.9% to cover the purchase price and unpaid debt on two vehicles he bought as a teenager. It was particularly burdensome when combined with his other debt, including credit cards, he said.

Just 18% of U.S. households had enough liquid assets to cover the cost of a new car, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of 2016 data from the Fed’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, a proportion that hasn’t changed much in recent years.

Even a conservative car loan often won’t do it. The median-income U.S. household with a four-year loan, 20% down and a payment under 10% of gross income—a standard budget—could afford a car worth $18,390, excluding taxes, according to an analysis by personal-finance website

Related: Discovery, Connected and Singapore Math.

Madison’s math task force.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

The Math That Takes Newton into the Quantum World

John Baez:

In my 50s, too old to become a real expert, I have finally fallen in love with algebraic geometry. As the name suggests, this is the study of geometry using algebra. Around 1637, René Descartes laid the groundwork for this subject by taking a plane, mentally drawing a grid on it, as we now do with graph paper, and calling the coordinates x and y. We can write down an equation like x2+ y2 = 1, and there will be a curve consisting of points whose coordinates obey this equation. In this example, we get a circle!

It was a revolutionary idea at the time, because it let us systematically convert questions about geometry into questions about equations, which we can solve if we’re good enough at algebra. Some mathematicians spend their whole lives on this majestic subject. But I never really liked it much until recently—now that I’ve connected it to my interest in quantum physics.

What Are Classroom Practices That Support Equity-Based Mathematics Teaching?


Current mathematics education research is used to frame equity-based teaching practices through three lenses useful for building one’s teaching: reflecting , noticing , and engaging in community .

Reflecting . Equity-based teaching requires a substantial amount of reflection, which involves not just reflecting on your pedagogy and your classroom norms, but also considering how you identify yourself and how others identify you (Crockett, 2008; Gutiérrez, 2013b; Walshaw, 2010).

Noticing . Noticing generally refers to paying attention to students’ mathematical thinking (Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010), yet it is a crucial skill for equity-based teaching; noticing helps teachers pay attention to how students position and identify themselves and each other (Wager, 2014).

Engaging in Community . Community engagement is powerful, in all aspects of teaching. While there are many ways to engage in your multiple communities, we highlight two specific communities here: your classroom and your teaching community.


Related: Madison’s math task force [Report] and the use of reform math curricula.

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? James Wollack
and Michael Fish

Major Findings

CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students

Change in performance was observed immediately after switch

Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly

Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis

CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional-AP students
Both sample sizes were low

2014: 21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

International Math Competition Defeat Prompts Soul Searching in China

Charlotte Yang:

Chinese high school students generally outperform their western peers at math — at least, that’s what many in the country believe.

That assumption was shattered Monday, when China placed a mediocre sixth at the 2019 Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM), a major math competition for pre-university students. The U.S. won the championship for best team, while the highest individual prize went to an Israeli candidate.

Math competitions like the RMM are serious business in China, where participation can give students a leg up in university admissions.

China’s defeat on Monday prompted social media users to ask if recent Ministry of Education curbs on math competitions were misguided.

Since the ministry requested that universities limit preferential admissions for math competition participants, interest in the subject has fallen, one Weibo user said, in a comment that received 2,200 likes.“Chinese parents still take a utilitarian approach toward education.”

Others said the government should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and encourage participation from truly talented students.

Related: Connected math

Singapore Math

Discovery Math

Math Task Force

Math from Three to Seven

Math from Three to Seven:

A question of culture

When I was a grad student at UC Berkeley (in the late 1980s), it was under- stood, among my American classmates, that the Eastern Europeans were simply better. They weren’t genetically superior; indeed, many of my Amer- ican classmates, myself included, were themselves descended from Eastern European immigrants. And we knew that we weren’t stupid. Many of us had excelled at mathematical olympiads, even at the international level. But at Berkeley, the Eastern Europeans — students and faculty alike — were known for their intensity.

American-dominated seminars might last for one polite hour; in contrast, a Russian or Rumanian seminar would go on for an entire argumentative evening. Some of us joked that the Russians really came from the planet Krypton, attaining super powers when they came to live among us.

All joking aside, we fledgling mathematicians understood that the single most important thing was not raw intelligence or knowledge (Americans tend to lag behind in the latter compared to all international students). What mattered was passion. The way to become successful in mathematics, like almost every endeavor, is to care about it, to love it, to obsess over it. And in this, Eastern Europeans had a clear superiority, a cultural advantage. They had been trained, from an early age, to love mathematics more intensely.

For many years, dating from at least the Sputnik era, America has suf- fered from an educational inferiority complex. We try to catch up, hunting for the secret ingredients that other nations use. Should we adopt the Sin- gapore curriculum? Put our kids in after-school Kumon programs? Teach them meditation? Yoga?

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; examining the practices of oth- ers’ is bound to be enriching. But it’s not the ingredients that really matter.

There is no single magical special sauce. What you need is a culture of in- tellectual inquiry, and one that fits.

Related: Math Forum.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician

Evelyn Lamb:

In 1950 Edward Nelson, then a student at the University of Chicago, asked the kind of deceptively simple question that can give mathematicians fits for decades. Imagine, he said, a graph — a collection of points connected by lines. Ensure that all of the lines are exactly the same length, and that everything lies on the plane. Now color all the points, ensuring that no two connected points have the same color. Nelson asked: What is the smallest number of colors that you’d need to color any such graph, even one formed by linking an infinite number of vertices?

The problem, now known as the Hadwiger-Nelson problem or the problem of finding the chromatic number of the plane, has piqued the interest of many mathematicians, including the famously prolific Paul Erdős. Researchers quickly narrowed the possibilities down, finding that the infinite graph can be colored by no fewer than four and no more than seven colors. Other researchers went on to prove a few partial results in the decades that followed, but no one was able to change these bounds.

Just teach my kid the math

James Tanton:

It is astounding to me that mathematics – of all school subjects – elicits such potent emotional reaction when “reform” is in the air. We’ve seen the community response to the Common Core State Standards in the U.S., the potency of the Back to Basics movement in Alberta, Canada, and the myriad of internet examples of the absolute absurdity of “new math.”

At face value, the strong reactions we see can be interpreted as paradoxical. Parents might openly admit they themselves did not understand mathematics, that they actively hate mathematics even, but insist that we don’t dare do anything different for their child in math class! Parents’ befuddlement over their child’s third-grade homework might be seen as a wrong of the new curriculum, not as evidence of the failing of their own mathematics education, that they weren’t provided the flexibility and agility of thought to see simple arithmetic in multiple lights.

It seems that previous generations were seduced to equate familiarity with understanding. For instance, our standard arithmetic algorithms are somewhat bizarre – they are the end result of a human process of codifying arithmetical thinking, designed with the extra goal of using as little of precious 17th-century ink as possible. But if one does them often enough, their routine begins to feel comfortable and familiar.

Related: Math Forum

Connected math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math

Chris Papst:

Project Baltimore analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall. We paged through 16,000 lines of data and uncovered this: Of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math.

Digging further, we found another six high schools where one percent tested proficient. Add it up – in half the high schools in Baltimore City, 3804 students took the state test, 14 were proficient in math.

Related: Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Déjà vu: Madison elementary school students explore the district’s new math curriculum

Amber Walker:

MMSD highlighted the success of the new math curriculum in its annual report, released last July. The report said the first cohort of schools using Bridges saw an eight-point increase in math proficiency scores and nine-point gains in math growth in one school year on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam for third through fifth grade students.

By comparison, fifth grade MAP proficiency scores across the district increased eight points in the last four years.

“(Bridges) focuses on developing the students’ understanding of math concepts,” Davis said. “It is not about how students can memorize certain skills, but really around their ability to problem solve and look at math in more complex ways…and explain their reasoning to their teachers and peers.”

Related (deja vu):

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Math task force

Math forum

Singapore Math

Stretch targets

What Is It Like To Understand Advanced Mathematics?

Ji Li:

You can answer many seemingly difficult questions quickly. But you are not very impressed by what can look like magic, because you know the trick. The trick is that your brain can quickly decide if a question is answerable by one of a few powerful general purpose “machines” (e.g., continuity arguments, the correspondences between geometric and algebraic objects, linear algebra, ways to reduce the infinite to the finite through various forms of compactness) combined with specific facts you have learned about your area. The number of fundamental ideas and techniques that people use to solve problems is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty small — see for a partial list, maintained by Timothy Gowers.

You are often confident that something is true long before you have an airtight proof for it (this happens especially often in geometry). The main reason is that you have a large catalogue of connections between concepts, and you can quickly intuit that if X were to be false, that would create tensions with other things you know to be true, so you are inclined to believe X is probably true to maintain the harmony of the conceptual space. It’s not so much that you can imagine the situation perfectly, but you can quickly imagine many other things that are logically connected to it.

The math gift myth


My May post is more than a little late. The initial delay was caused by a mountain of other deadlines. When I did finally start to come up for air, there just did not seem to be any suitable math stories floating around to riff off, but I did not have enough time to dig around for one. That this has happened so rarely in the twenty years I have been writing Devlin’s Angle (and various other outlets going back to the early 1980s in the UK), that it speaks volumes against the claim you sometimes hear that nothing much happens in the world of mathematics. There is always stuff going on.
 Be that as it may, when I woke up this morning and went online, two fascinating stories were waiting for me. What’s more, they are connected – at least, that’s how I saw them.

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack
and Michael Fish:

Major Findings

  • CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students
  • Change in performance was observed immediately after switch
  • Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly

    Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis

  • CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional-AP students

    Both sample sizes were low

2012: “An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials.”

2014: “

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

Core Plus

and: Foundations of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education Schools), or MTEL arrives.

K-12 Math Rigor? Are High School Graduates Capable Of Basic Cost/Benefit Calculations…

Kevin Carey:

The problem, from a regulatory standpoint, is that they borrow a lot of money to obtain the degree — over $78,000 on average, according to the university. The total tuition is $62,593. And because it’s a graduate program, students can also borrow the full cost of their living expenses from the federal government, regardless of their credit history.

After accounting for basic living expenses, the average Harvard A.R.T. Institute graduate has to pay 44 percent of discretionary income just to make the minimum loan payment.

PDF Report link.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force



More regulation simply makes things worse. Why not make sure that students can adequately assess the cost and benefits of their choices?

Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, via a kind Dan Dempsey email:

Textbooks are one of the most widely used educational inputs, but remarkably little is known about their effects on student learning. This report uses data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement. We study four of the most popular books in the state from 2008-2013 and find that one—Houghton Mifflin California Math—consistently outperforms the other three. The superior performance of California Math persists up to four years after adoption and shows up in grades 3, 4, and 5.

The textbook impacts we identify are educationally meaningful and come at an extremely low cost. With regard to cost, textbooks are relatively inexpensive and tend to be similarly priced. The implication is that the marginal cost of choosing a more effective textbook over a less effective alternative is essentially zero. In terms of achievement impacts, our findings suggest non-trivial gains in student achievement are attainable simply by choosing more effective curriculum materials. The effect sizes we document are on par with what one could expect from a hypothetical policy that substantially increases the quality of the teaching workforce. But whereas there is much uncertainty about whether commensurate increases in teacher quality are attainable, and how they might be attained—at least in the near term—choosing a more effective textbook is a seemingly straightforward policy option for raising student achievement.

A critical factor limiting the capacity of school administrators to choose more effective textbooks is that there is virtually no evidence on how different textbooks affect student achievement. The fundamental problem limiting the development of an evidence base is that very few states track school and district textbook adoptions. This point bears repeating: most states do not know which curriculum materials are being used in which schools and districts. Without these data, it is not possible to perform evaluations of textbook efficacy. Thus, in most states, decisionmakers who wish to incorporate into their adoption decisions evidence on how textbooks affect student achievement are simply out of luck.


Our work makes several important contributions. First, we have assembled a dataset of textbook adoptions in California, the largest U.S. state with the greatest number of schools. We have received funding to continue collecting these data moving forward. We will continue to analyze the data and go on to study other subjects and other grades. We also plan to make the data available to interested researchers so that others can pursue new lines of inquiry. There are many questions in this area of great import that do not have to do with impacts on student achievement—
for instance, is there equitable access to current curriculum materials? How do charter and traditional public schools differ in their adoption patterns? We hope these newly available data can spawn a new wave of data-driven research on textbook adoptions and their effects. The current research literature is sorely lacking in quantitative analyses of textbooks in schools.

Second, our work again demonstrates a method (previously demonstrated by Bhatt, Koedel, and Lehmannxiv) that can be applied in other states, grades, and subjects. We believe at this point that the method is suf ciently well developed that it can be widely applied. By doing this—studying textbook effects across multiple settings—we can begin to develop a better understanding of what is working, where, and for whom. In addition to California, we have collected data on textbook adoptions in Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. Whether the data we have are suf ciently complete to allow this kind of investigation in each setting is unclear, but we will try.

PDF Report link.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force



All The Mathematical Methods I Learned In My University Math Degree Became Obsolete In My Lifetime

Keith Devlin:

If you are connected with the world of K-12 mathematics education, it’s highly unlikely that a day will go by without you uttering, writing, hearing, or reading the term “number sense”. In contrast everyone else on the planet would be hard pressed to describe what it is. Though entering the term into Google will return close to 38 million hits, it has yet to enter the world’s collective consciousness. Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin explains what it is.

When I graduated with a bachelors degree in mathematics from one of the most prestigious university mathematics programs in the world (Kings College London) in 1968, I had acquired a set of skills that guaranteed full employment, wherever I chose to go, for the then-foreseeable future—a state of affairs that had been in existence ever since modern mathematics began some three thousand years earlier. By the turn of the new Millennium, however, just over thirty years later, those skills were essentially worthless, having been very effectively outsourced to machines that did it faster and more reliably, and were made widely available with the onset of first desktop- and then cloud-computing. In a single lifetime, I experienced first-hand a dramatic change in the nature of mathematics and how it played a role in society.

Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

Project Description: MMSD has provided funding to support coursework in the content and teaching knowledge of middle school teachers of math. Toward that goal, a partnership was formed back in 2010 between the District, the UW-Madison School of Education, the UW- Madison Department of Mathematics, and the University of Wisconsin Extension – Office of Education Outreach and Partnerships. MMSD will continue this for the 2016-17 school year and continue to offer math coursework for teachers to participate. The courses consists of a five course sequence (Number, Ratio, Geometry, Algebra, and Experimentation, Conjecture & Reasoning) with two courses being offered each semester. MMSD will continue to provide some financial support for teachers in each class with priority determined by; 1) middle school teacher working with an existing condition of employment, 2) middle school math teachers, and 3) teachers who began the program in previous years.

NOTE: There is a significant reduction in the estimate of this program from the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year. As a reminder, the change for this program and financial support moving forward was shared with the Board April 2016. The model continues the five course MSMS Program using non-credit courses for teachers currently enrolled in the program. This reduces the annual operating budget to $27,000. In addition, the full-time Math teacher leader’s responsibilities have been repositioned to provide support and professional development for middle school math teachers and for algebra teachers.

Talent management has been working with principals to select best candidates for current and future hiring. Middle school math teachers are now provided with standards aligned curricular resources and job embedded coaching.

Related: Singapore Math, Math Forum, Connected Math, Discovery Math.

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

The University of Wisconsin System is exempt from complying with the requirements of the District’s Contract Compliance Plan.

The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

James Astill:

Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and poor at maths, at which they rank 27th out of 34 developed countries. At 15, children in Massachusetts, where education standards are higher than in most states, are so far behind their counterparts in Shanghai at maths that it would take them more than two years of regular education to catch up.

This is not for lack of investment. America spends more on educating its children than all but a handful of rich countries. Nor is it due to high levels of inequality: the proportion of American children coming from under-privileged backgrounds is about par for the OECD. A better reason, in my snapshot experience of American schooling, is a frustrating lack of intellectual ambition for children to match the sporting ambition that is so excellently drummed into them in our local swimming pool and elsewhere.

My children’s elementary school, I should say, is one of America’s better ones, and in many ways terrific. It is orderly, friendly, well-provisioned and packed with the sparky offspring of high-achieving Washington, DC, commuters. Its teachers are diligent, approachable and exude the same relentless positivity as the swimming instructors. We feel fortunate to have them. Yet the contrast with the decent London state school from which we moved our eldest children is, in some ways, dispiriting.

After two years of school in England, our six-year-old was so far ahead of his American peers that he had to be bumped up a year, where he was also ahead. This was partly because American children start regular school at five, a year later than most British children; but it was also for more substantive reasons.

Related: Connected Math, Discovery Math and the Math Forum (audio and video).

Reading requires attention as well. (MTEL)

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results despite spending more than most, now around $18k per student.

And, National Council on teacher quality links are worth a look.

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett

“Overall, there’s a movement towards more complex cognitive mathematics, there’s a movement towards the student being invited to act like a mathematician instead of passively taking in math and science,” said David Baker, a professor of sociology and education at Pennsylvania State University. “These are big trends and they’re quite revolutionary.”

Pedagogical revolutions are chancy endeavors, however. The Common Core math standards were released in 2010 and NGSS in 2013. Now, years on, even enthusiastic early adopters of the Common Core like the state of New York are retreating from the standards. While the ultimate impact of both the Common Core and NGSS is still uncertain, it’s clear these standards go beyond simply swapping one set of textbooks for another — to really take hold, they’ll require a fundamental rethinking of everything from assessments to classroom materials to the basic relationship between teachers and students.

Related: Connected Math and math forum.

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett:

If we could snap our fingers and change the way math and science are taught in U.S. schools, most of us would. The shortcomings of the current approach are clear. Subjects that are vibrant in the minds of experts become lifeless by the time they’re handed down to students. It’s not uncommon to hear kids in Algebra 2 ask, “When are we ever going to use this?” and for the teacher to reply, “Math teaches you how to think,” which is true — if only it were taught that way.

To say that this is now changing is to invite an eye roll. For a number of entrenched reasons, from the way teachers are trained to the difficulty of agreeing on what counts in each discipline, instruction in science and math is remarkably resistant to change.

That said, we’re riding the next big wave in K-12 science and math education in the United States. The main events are a pair of highly visible but often misunderstood documents — the Common Core math standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — that, if implemented successfully, will boldly remake the way math and science are taught. Both efforts seek to recast instruction in the fundamental ideas and perspectives that animate the two fields.

“What we did in reorganizing the content of school mathematics was long overdue,” said Phil Daro, one of three lead authors of the Common Core math standards.

The changes go beyond the contentious new methods of teaching arithmetic that have grabbed headlines and threatened to blunt the momentum of Common Core math. Both documents developed out of decades of academic research on how children learn, and they reflect similar priorities. They exhibit an elegant rethinking of the basic structure of knowledge, along with new assertions of what’s important for students to be able to do by the time they finish high school.

Related: Connected Math; Math Forum audio and video.

Some rather strange history of maths

The Renaissance Mathematicus:

Scientific American has a guest blog post with the title: Mathematicians Are Overselling the Idea That “Math Is Everywhere, which argues in its subtitle: The mathematics that is most important to society is the province of the exceptional few—and that’s always been true. Now I’m not really interested in the substantial argument of the article but the author, Michael J. Barany, opens his piece with some historical comments that I find to be substantially wrong; a situation made worse by the fact that the author is a historian of mathematics.

Barany’s third paragraph starts as follows:

In the first agricultural societies in the cradle of civilization, math connected the heavens and the earth. Priests used astronomical calculations to mark the seasons and interpret divine will, and their special command of mathematics gave them power and privilege in their societies.

Commentary On K – 12 Math Preparation

Vauhini Vara:

Teachers pack their items outside of Everest College, in City of Industry, California, one of the shuttered Corinthian Colleges.

Last year, I met fifteen former students and graduates of Corinthian Colleges who had taken a remarkable action to protest the collection of their student debt. Corinthian, a for-profit institution that was, at the time, facing a financial meltdown and several lawsuits over alleged fraud in its recruitment process, had recently started shutting down or selling off its campuses. The students, calling themselves the Corinthian Fifteen, had organized a “debt strike,” refusing to repay their student loans even at the risk of going into default. Their argument was that the Department of Education shouldn’t collect on loans that students were misled into incurring, especially since they earned a degree that was all but worthless or, in some cases, found that their college had shut down before they could graduate.

Related: connected math and the math forum audio/video.

‘Outsiders’ Crack 50-Year-Old Math Problem

Erica Klarreich:

his Yale University colleague Gil Kalai about a computer science problem he was working on, concerning how to “sparsify” a network so that it has fewer connections between nodes but still preserves the essential features of the original network.

Network sparsification has applications in data compression and efficient computation, but Spielman’s particular problem suggested something different to Kalai. It seemed connected to the famous Kadison-Singer problem, a question about the foundations of quantum physics that had remained unsolved for almost 50 years.

Over the decades, the Kadison-Singer problem had wormed its way into a dozen distant areas of mathematics and engineering, but no one seemed to be able to crack it. The question “defied the best efforts of some of the most talented mathematicians of the last 50 years,” wrote Peter Casazza and Janet Tremain of the University of Missouri in Columbia, in a 2014 survey article.

The Man Behind Modern Math

John Steele Gordon:

Mathematicians often deal in abstractions that are quite beyond the ken of non-mathematicians. For instance, in 1637, the Frenchman Pierre de Fermat conjectured that there is no whole-number solution for the equation An + Bn = Cn where N is greater than two. He famously wrote in the margin of a book that he had a proof for it, but he never wrote it down.

Most people think Fermat was mistaken, for the proof became a sort of holy grail of mathematicians. And it wasn’t until 1995 that the British professor Andrew Wiles published a proof of Fermat’s conjecture, using many 20th century techniques that were unavailable to Fermat. The proof runs 109 pages, and—trust me on this—if you don’t have a Ph.D. in math, you won’t understand a word of it.

Related: Math Forum audio/video and Connected Math.

Will Our Understanding of Math Deteriorate Over Time?

Lance Fortnow:

Scientific American writes about rescuing the enormous theorem (classification of finite simple groups) before the proof vanishes. How can a proof vanish?

In mathematics and theoretical computer science, we read research papers primarily to find research questions to work on, or find techniques we can use to prove new theorems. What happens to a research area then when researchers go elsewhere?

In a response to a question about how can one contribute to mathematics, Bill Thurston notes that our knowledge of mathematics can deteriorate over time.

Related: Math Forum and “connected math“.

Lifelong Math Tax: Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

Chico Harlan:

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.

Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

Related Math Forum and Connected Math.

US Ranked 35th In Math Achievement

Drew DeSilver:

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Related: connected math.

Math task force.

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement

Cheryl’s Birthday: Singapore’s maths puzzle baffles world

Tessa Wong:

A school maths question posted on Facebook by a Singaporean TV presenter has stumped thousands, and left many asking if that’s really what is expected of Singaporean students.
The question asks readers to guess the birthday of a girl called Cheryl using the minimal clues she gives to her friends, Albert and Bernard.

Cheryl’s Birthday was initially reported to be an examination question for 11-year-olds.
Students stressed by tough examinations is a perennial issue here, and Cheryl’s Birthday reignited concerns that the education system was too challenging.

Kenneth Chang and Alex Bellos.

Related: The infliction of Connected Math on our children is worth a deep dive.

The two cultures of mathematics and biology

Bits of Dna:

I’m a (50%) professor of mathematics and (50%) professor of molecular & cell biology at UC Berkeley. There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with biologists and then gone off at night with some mathematicians. I mean that literally. I have had, of course, intimate friends among both biologists and mathematicians. I think it is through living among these groups and much more, I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I have become occupied with the problem that I’ve christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I feel that I am moving among two groups- comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who have almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate have so little in common that instead of crossing the campus from Evans Hall to the Li Ka Shing building, I may as well have crossed an ocean.1

I try not to become preoccupied with the two cultures problem, but this holiday season I have not been able to escape it. First there was a blog post by David Mumford, a professor emeritus of applied mathematics at Brown University, published on December 14th. For those readers of the blog who do not follow mathematics, it is relevant to what I am about to write that David Mumford won the Fields Medal in 1974 for his work in algebraic geometry, and afterwards launched another successful career as an applied mathematician, building on Ulf Grenader’s Pattern Theory and making significant contributions to vision research. A lot of his work is connected to neuroscience and therefore biology. Among his many awards are the MacArthur Fellowship, the Shaw Prize, the Wolf Prize and the National Medal of Science. David Mumford is not Joe Schmo.

Deja Vu on Madison Math: Algebra: The most-failed class for Madison freshmen

Molly Beck:

“When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.”

She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.

Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”

Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.


What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.

Math Forum Audio & Video (2008!).

Connected Math.

Everyday Math

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark:

According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.”

As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill Ayers and other blatant anti-American indoctrinators.

The site, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach for America, says that because math is seen as a domain for old, white men, many students cannot identify with it. Therefore, educators should find ways to relate math to the lives of their students.

Related: Math Forum, Connected Math, Everyday Math and English 10.

Math Task Force and When A Stands for Average.

Shanghai teachers flown to the UK for maths (Stopping in Madison?)

Sean Coughlan:

Up to 60 Shanghai maths teachers are to be brought to England to raise standards, in an exchange arranged by the Department for Education.

They will provide masterclasses in 30 “maths hubs”, which are planned as a network of centres of excellence.

The Chinese city’s maths pupils have the highest international test results.

The announcement comes as a campaign is launched to raise adult maths skills, with warnings that poor numeracy is costing the UK economy £20bn per year.

The National Numeracy Challenge aims to improve numeracy levels for a million people.

It is providing an online self-assessment test – with help for those lacking in confidence in maths.

Financial cost
Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, says 78% of working-age adults have maths skills below the equivalent of a GCSE grade C – and that half only have the maths skills of a child leaving primary school.

Related Connected Math and disastrous reading results in Madison.

The Surprising Impact of High School Math on Job Market Outcomes

Jon James:

The economic returns to education are well documented. It is also well-known that college graduates with certain majors will earn more than others and find it easier to land a job. But surprisingly, the courses students take in high school also make a difference, when the courses are mathematics. Even among workers with the same level of education, those with more math have higher wages on average and are less likely to be unemployed. These findings suggest that even students ending their formal education after high school can increase their future earnings by investing in more math courses while in high school.

High school graduates earn more money in general than high school dropouts. This well-known fact is a powerful incentive to finish high school. But is it just the diploma that counts, or do the particular courses students take while in high school matter for their future job prospects? Students can opt for a variety of courses, from vocational tracks to advanced placement classes for college credit, during their final four years of required education.
Most high school graduates choose a curriculum that is far more rigorous than the minimum requirements. This is most evident in mathematics courses. For example, in 2009, 75 percent of high school graduates completed math coursework at the level of Algebra II or above. Most of these students could have stopped at Algebra I and satisfied the minimum high school requirements. Only six states required Algebra II for graduation as of 2006. About 11 required Algebra I, six required geometry, and the remaining 27 required only that students complete a minimum of three years of mathematics at any level.
The fact that so many students take a rigorous math curriculum is not surprising given that a minimum of Algebra II is necessary for adequate college preparation. But an analysis of detailed high school transcript data and employment outcomes suggests that a more rigorous high school math curriculum benefits even those who do not go to college. While math may be difficult for many, our findings indicate that the payoffs for all students may be substantial.

Unsurprising, particularly when one encounters young people unable to comprehend cell phone costs, student loan terms or simply make change.
Related: Math Forum audio / video and Connected Math.

Grades are in: June’s final exams in math show more failure in Montgomery County Schools

Donna St. George, via a kind reader’s email:

For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.
The numbers add to a phenomenon that goes back more than five years and came to widespread public attention this spring, setting off a wave of concern among parents as well as elected officials in the high-performing school system.
Latest math-exam figures show high failure rates persist in the high-performing school system.
The new figures, for exams given in June, show that failure rates worsened in Algebra 1 and Geometry; improved in Precalculus and Bridge to Algebra 2; and stayed fairly even in Algebra 2, Honors Precalculus, Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry.
Overall, 45 percent of high school students in eight math courses failed their June finals — about 14,000 students out of roughly 31,000 enrolled.
Exactly what explains steep failure rates for exam-takers has been an issue of debate in recent months.
In a memo to the school board, School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released a preliminary figure on test-skipping: As many as 500 students were no-shows for the Algebra 1 exam in June, accounting for one-sixth of the 2,912 students who failed the test.
Starr said student motivation was one of a half-dozen issues under study as a newly created math work group seeks to understand the failure problem and suggest ways to turn it around. Other possible causes cited include alignment between the curriculum and the exam, school system practices and policies, and the “cognitive demands” of the exam.

Related: Math Forum audio & video along with a number of connected matharticles.
2004 (!) Madison West High School math teacher letter to Isthmus on dumbing down the curriculum.

Failing Math Curriculum in Seattle Public Schools

Cliff Mass:

If I was a Seattle Public School parent, I would be getting angry now.
Why? Most Seattle students are receiving an inferior math education using math books and curriculum that will virtually insure they never achieve mastery in key mathematical subjects and thus will be unable to participate in careers that requires mathematical skills.
There are so many signs that a profound problem exists in this city. For example,
Parents see their kids unable to master basic math skills. And they bring home math books that are nearly indecipherable to parents or other potential tutors.
Nearly three quarters of Seattle Community College students require remediation in math.
Over one hundred Seattle students are not able to graduate high school because they could not pass state-mandated math exams.
Minority and economically disadvantaged students are not gaining ground in math.

Much more on Seattle’s math battles, here.

Wisconsin DPI Mathematics Education Videos

Wisconsin DPI Connected email:

Wisconsin’s alignment of Teaching Channel videos to new mathematics standards is so useful it’s being recommended on the national level.
For each of the eight skills of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice, the creators of DPI’s Mathematical Literacy website found at least one video to help teachers visualize how to address it in their classrooms.
Wisconsin’s site was created by Diana Kasbaum, the DPI’s mathematics education consultant, along with Jackie Herrmann and Becky Walker of the Appleton Area School District and Jeff Ziegler of the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Council for Chief State School Officers recommended the site in a nationwide email to help educators implement the Common Core.
The website simultaneously addresses the Common Core State Standards requirement of Disciplinary Literacy—the idea that students need subject area educators to teach them ways to read, write, think, listen, and speak that are specific to those fields. In mathematics, a team of Wisconsin educators found that the Mathematical Practice standards effectively address disciplinary literacy as well.

Madison School District Administration Response to the Math Task Force

The local school district’s increasing use of reform math programs lead to the creation of a “Math Task Force“. The District Administration’s response is outlined in this 2.6MB PDF document:

The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.
Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.
Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)
The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.
The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.
Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.
In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.

Background notes and links:

Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

Response to the Madison School District’s Math Task Force Recommendations

There are a number of points in the Summary of Administrative Response to MMSD Mathematics Task Force Recommendations which should be made. As a mathematician, let me just comment on comments on Recommendation 11. There are other comments which could be made, but I have a limited amount of time at present.
The first question I have is in the first paragraph. “One aspect of the balanced approach is represented in the four block approach to structuring mathematics lessons. The four blocks include Problem Solving, Number Work, Fluency and Maintenance and Inspecting Equations.” There is a missing comma, since it is not clear whether Maintenance goes with the previous word or the last two. However, in either case, “Inspecting Equations” is a strange phrase to use. I am not sure what it means, and when a mathematician who has read extensively in school mathematics does not understand a phrase, something is wrong. You might ask Brian Sniff, who seems to have written this report based on one comment he made at the Monday meeting, what he means by this.
In the next paragraph, there are the following statements about the math program used in MMSD. “The new edition [of Connected Math Project] includes a greater emphasis on practice problems similar to those in traditional middle and high school textbooks. The new edition still remains focused on problem-centered instruction that promotes deep conceptual understanding.” First, I dislike inflated language. It usually is an illustration of a lack of knowledge. We cannot hope for “deep conceptual understanding”, in school mathematics, and Connected Math falls far short of what we want students to learn and understand in many ways. There are many examples which could be given and a few are mentioned in a letter I sent to the chair of a committee which gave an award to two of the developers of Connected Mathematics Project. Much of my letter to Phil Daro is given below.
The final paragraph for Recommendation 11 deals with high school mathematics. When asked about the state standards, Brian Sniff remarked that they were being rewritten, but that the changes seem to be minimal. He is on the high school rewrite committee, and I hope he is incorrect about the changes since significant changes should be made. We now have a serious report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel which was asked to report on algebra. In addition to comments on what is needed to prepare students for algebra, which should have an impact on both elementary and middle school mathematics, there is a good description of what algebra in high school should contain. Some of the books used in MMSD do not have the needed algebra. In addition, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has published Curriculum Focal Points for grades PK-8 which should be used for further details in these grades. Neither of these reports was mentioned in the response you were sent.


Well-Connected Parents Take On School Boards

Michael Alison Chandler:

For a new generation of well-wired activists in the Washington region, it’s not enough to speak at Parent-Teacher Association or late-night school board meetings. They are going head-to-head with superintendents through e-mail blitzes, social networking Web sites, online petitions, partnerships with business and student groups, and research that mines a mountain of electronic data on school performance.
In recent weeks, parent-led campaigns helped bring down a long-established grading policy in Fairfax County and scale back the unpopular practice of charging fees for courses in Montgomery County. They have also stoked debates over math education in Frederick and Prince William counties.


Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 204-1240

Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

  • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
  • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
  • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

    Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
    AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
    The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
    In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

  • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
  • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

Counting on the Future: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for American School Districts

Dr. Gary W. Phillips & John A. Dossey [2.5MB PDF Report]:

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.
The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.
“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)
If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.
This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.
This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.
After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.
At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).
At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).
Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.

Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.
Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.
“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”
Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

Math Forum audio & video.

Madison Math Task Force Minutes

March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.
A few interesting items:

  • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from “Curriculum Review and Research Findings” to “Learning from Curricula.”
  • “Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. “
  • “Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization.” Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
  • “Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. “
  • “Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance — want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. “
  • “Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement.”
  • “Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources”
  • “District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: “No”). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. “
  • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
  • MMSD Math Task Force website

Math Forum audio / video and links.

Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on MMSD Math

The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 21 February 2008 offered a question and answer session with Welda Simousek, TAG coordinator, Lisa Wachtel, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Brian Sniff, Math Coordinator, each of MMSD.

QT Video
The video of the meeting is about 1 hours and 30 minutes long, but does not include the last 15 minutes of a spirited discussion. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download.

The topics covered during remarks and the question and answer sessions are

  • Middle School Math Assessment
  • Math Task Force
  • Teacher Certifications in Math
  • Connected Math Curriculum in Middle Schools
  • High School Math Curriculum and variations among schools

The slide materials for Lisa’s and Brian’s presentation are included in Powerpoint format and PDF format. (Thanks to Brian for sending).
The handouts from this presentation (thanks to Welda): In-STEP Teacher Checklist, 2007-8 Middle School Math Assessment – Draft, Math Assessment Report.
NB: The last slides discussed during this meeting are slides numbered 15 and 16 (Math Physics, Math Chemistry, respectively). These latter slides prompted the spirited discussion mentioned above, but is not part of the video. Slides 17-19 were neither discussed nor displayed.

Columbia (Missouri) Parents for Real Math

Math Excellence in Columbia Missouri Public Schools:

To: Columbia Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Phyllis Chase
An increasing number of parents and community leaders have expressed concern about the various math curricula currently used in the Columbia Public Schools (CPS). These experimental math programs go by the names of Investigations (TERC), Connected Math (CMP) and Integrated Math (Core Plus) and they emphasize “self-discovery” over mathematical competency. We are concerned because these curricula have been discredited and abandoned in other regions of the country after they failed to deliver demonstrable results. The failed curricula are currently the only method of instruction in the elementary grades and middle schools. At higher grade levels, CPS has actively discouraged students from enrolling in math courses that place more emphasis on widely accepted standard methods. And, while implementing and evaluating these programs, the Columbia School District did not provide open access to meetings or adequately consider the concerns of professional mathematicians, parents and community leaders.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, would like to express our deep concern with the following issues and to propose that the Columbia School District adopt the following goals:
1. Protect the right of students to become computationally fluent in mathematics. We expect students to receive direct instruction in standard algorithms of all mathematical operations and laws of arithmetic so that they can master the skills that allow fast, accurate calculation of basic problems. This goal cannot be met with the current Investigations/TERC math curriculum for lower grade levels.
2. Ensure that math instruction is flexible enough to allow for various learning styles and is age and grade-level appropriate. The elementary level should focus on math standards that will build a solid base of mathematical skills for ALL students. Middle school curricula should build a bridge between the fundamental arithmetic learned in elementary school and the more abstract concepts taught in high school. At both the elementary and middle school levels the curricula should allow teachers the flexibility to meet the needs of all types of learners. This goal cannot be met with the Connected Math program currently used in middle and junior high schools.

Related: Columbia Parents’ blog site, which offers a number of useful posts. [RSS]
Math Forum Audio / Video.
Via a reader.

MMSD Math Review Task Force Introduction and Discussion

The Madison School District’s Math Task Force was introduced to the School Board last night. Watch the video or listen to the mp3 audio.
Background Links:

6th Grade Textbooks: Connected (left) and Singapore Math.
UPDATE: A reader emailed this:

I noticed that there were 10 student books in the 6th grade pile for CMP. That was surprising since there are only 8 in publication. Then I looked at the teacher editions and noticed there were 10 as well. There are two copies of both How Likely is It? and Covering and Surrounding.
The statement, “A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks compared to the equivalent Singapore Math course materials illustrates the publisher and author interests in selling these large volumes irrespective of curriculum quality and rigor (not to mention the much larger potential for errors or the lost trees….)” is following the picture in one of the discussions. Taking a look at the Singapore Math website It appears that in addition to the 2 textbooks pictured and student workbooks pictured, there are Intensive Practice books, Extra Practice Books, and Challenging Word Problems books, as well as other resources. Also, the white book on the bottom of the pile appears to be an answer key. There are also teacher guides for 6A and 6B that are not in the picture.
I’m not suggesting the statement above is false, I would just like to point out that the picture being used is not an accurate comparison. I hope you find this information valuable.

New Math Curriculum Draws Complaints

Connected Math textbooks for one year and the equivalent Singapore Math version.
Brandon Lorenz:

A recent meeting at Central Middle School attracted about 50 people to discuss concerns with the district’s Connected Mathematics Project, a new constructivist approach that was introduced in sixth, seventh and eighth grades this year.
Another meeting for parents is scheduled for Dec. 13 at Horning Middle School.
Such new math programs rely on more hands-on activities and problem-solving skills than traditional programs.
Speaking with Zaborowski, Lynn Kucek said she was worried the math program would make it more difficult for her daughter, who does well in other subjects, to get into college.

More on Connected Math and the recent Math Forum.

“Too Little Math in Math?”

Lynn Thompson:

But they strongly believe that their math textbooks should include actual math.
Donald’s “Connected Mathematics” book at Harbour Pointe Middle School in Mukilteo asks him to arrange a list of 20 cities in order of their populations, all in the tens of millions.
Yes, he concedes, he must recognize differences among numbers, but it’s a pretty low-level task for a bright sixth-grader, about as challenging as alphabetizing words.
But check out the next activity: Locate the cities on a map.
“That’s not math,” Donald protests. “That’s geography.”
The Chacon-Taylor children and their parents, Hugh Taylor and Monique Chacon-Taylor, are among Snohomish County families raising questions about the effectiveness of widely used math textbooks that encourage discovery and writing about math, but de-emphasize basics such as multiplication and long division.
They’ve joined other Washington parents in an organization called Where’s the Math? that’s calling on the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to rewrite its K-12 math standards, select more effective textbooks and re-examine the math content of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL)
The calls for rethinking the state’s math education come amid signs that the present system is failing large numbers of students. Just 51 percent of 10th-graders and 59 percent of fourth-graders passed the math section of the WASL in the spring. About 29,000 juniors haven’t passed the WASL math test, which they must do to graduate in spring 2008..

The Madison School District uses Connected Math in middle school. Many links and notes on math, including the recent Math Forum audio/video.

School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation

David Klein:

Problem: Find the slope and y-intercept of the equation 10 = x – 2.5.
Solution: The equation 10 = x – 2.5 is a specific case of the equation y = x – 2.5, which has a slope of 1 and a y-intercept of –2.5.
This problem comes from a 7th grade math quiz that accompanies a widely used textbook series for grades 6 to 8 called Connected Mathematics Program or CMP.[1] The solution appears in the CMP Teacher’s Guide and is supported by a discussion of sample student work.
Richard Askey, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported, “I was told about this problem by a parent whose child took this quiz. The marking was exactly as in the text.”[2] Students instructed and graded in this way learn incorrect mathematics, and teachers who know better may be undermined by their less informed peers, armed with the “solution.” This example is far from the only failing of CMP. Among other shortcomings, there is no instruction on division of fractions in the entire three year CMP series, and the other parts of fraction arithmetic are treated poorly.[3]
Is CMP just an anomaly? Unfortunately not. CMP is only one of more than a dozen defective K-12 math programs funded by the National Science Foundation. More specifically, the NSF programs were created and distributed through grants from the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Division within the NSF. In contrast to the NSF’s admirable and important role in supporting fundamental scientific research, the EHR has caused, and continues to cause, damage to K-12 mathematics education.

Notes and links on math curriculum. Audio / Video from the recent math forum.
Connected Math is widely used within the Madison School District resulting in no small amount of supplementing by teachers, students and parents.

The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor

The Economist:

Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round.
But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? [MMSD’s 10th Grade Reading Data] As for the richer world, it is hard to say which throw more talent away—America’s dire public schools or Europe’s dire universities. Both suffer from too little competition and what George Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

Thursday’s meeting between Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater, the MMSD’s Brian Sniff and the UW Math department included two interesting guests: UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley [useful math links via the Chancellor’s website] and the Dean of the UW-Madison Education School. Wiley and the Ed School Dean’s attendance reflects the political nature of K-12 curriculum, particularly math. I’m glad Chancellor Wiley took time from his busy schedule to attend and look forward to his support for substantial improvements in our local math program.


Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade

At a meeting on February 22 (audio / video), representatives of the Madison Metropolitan School District presented some data [820K pdf | html (click the slide to advance to the next screen)] which they claimed showed that their middle school math series, Connected Mathematics Project, was responsible for some dramatic gains in student learning. There was data on the percent of students passing algebra by the end of ninth grade and data from the state eighth grade math test for eight years. Let us look at the test data in a bit more detail.

All that was presented was data from MMSD and there was a very sharp rise in the percent of students scoring at the advanced and proficient level in the last three years. To see if something was responsible for this other than an actual rise in scores consider not only the the Madison data but the corresponding data for the State of Wisconsin.

The numbers will be the percent of students who scored advanced or proficient by the criteria used that year. The numbers for Madison are slightly different than those presented since the total number of students who took the test was used to find the percent in the MMSD presented data, and what is given here is the percent of all students who reached these two levels. Since this is a comparative study, either way could have been used. I think it is unlikely that those not tested would have had the same overall results that those tested had, which is why I did not figure out the State results using this modification. When we get to scores by racial groups, the data presented by MMSD did not use the correction they did with all students ( All 8th grade students in both cases)

MMSD Wisconsin
Oct 97 40 30
Feb 99 45 42
Feb 00 47 42
Feb 01 44 39
Feb 02 48 44
Nov 02 72 73
Nov 03 60 65
Nov 04 71 72

This is not a picture of a program which is remarkably successful. We went from a district which was above the State average to one with scores at best at the State average. The State Test was changed from a nationally normed test to one written just for Wisconsin, and the different levels were set without a national norm. That is what caused the dramatic rise from February 2002 to November 2002. It was not that all of the Middle Schools were now using Connected Mathematics Project, which was the reason given at the meeting for these increases.

It is worth looking at a breakdown by racial groups to see if there is something going on there. The formats will be the same as above.

MMSD Wisconsin
Oct 97 19 11
Feb 99 25 17
Feb 00 29 18
Feb 01 21 15
Feb 02 25 17
Nov 02 48 46
Nov 03 37 38
Nov 04 50 49
Black (Not of Hispanic Origin)
MMSD Wisconsin
Oct 97 8 5
Feb 99 10 7
Feb 00 11 7
Feb 01 8 6
Feb 02 13 7
Nov 02 44 30
Nov 03 29 24
Nov 04 39 29
MMSD Wisconsin
Oct 97 25 22
Feb 99 36 31
Feb 00 35 33
Feb 01 36 29
Feb 02 41 31
Nov 02 65 68
Nov 03 55 53
Nov 04 73 77
MMSD Wisconsin
Oct 97 54 35
Feb 99 59 48
Feb 00 60 47
Feb 01 58 48
Feb 02 62 51
Nov 02 86 81
Nov 03 78 73
Nov 04 88 81

I see nothing in the demography by race which supports the claim that Connected Mathematics Project has been responsible for remarkable gains. I do see a lack of knowledge in how to read, understand and present data which should concern everyone in Madison who cares about public education. The School Board is owed an explanation for this misleading presentation. I wonder about the presentations to the School Board. Have they been as misleading as those given at this public meeting?

Richard Askey

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants:

The conversation, including audience questions was lively.


“Less May be More with Math Curriculum”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim:

The books are distributed by an Oregon-based company known as, which counts a private school in Madison as the first of its growing number of clients.
The biggest difference between math instruction in Singapore – a city-state with a population of about 4.4 million – and the United States is a simple premise: Less is more.
Students in Singapore are introduced to roughly half the number of new math topics a year as students in the United States are. Experts and policy analysts say Singapore’s emphasis on depth over breadth is a formula for success.
The thicker the textbooks and the greater the volume of math topics introduced a year, the less likely American students and teachers are to achieve similar results, says Alan Ginsburg, director of the policy and program studies service at the U.S. Department of Education.

More on the Connected Math / Singapore Math textbook photos.

Madison Country Day School was the first US school to purchase Singapore Math textbooks, in 1997, according to this article.

Math Curriculum: Textbook Photos

A year’s worth of Connected Math textbooks and teacher guides are on the left while the equivalent Singapore Math texts are on the right.

Friedman’s latest ,where he demonstrates how other countries are “eating our kid’s lunch in math” is well worth reading, as are these math posts. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has much more to say on K-12 math curriculum.

A few observations from a layperson who couldn’t be farther from a math expert’s perspective on this (in other words, I’m not a math expert):

  • Children must be able to read effectively to use the voluminous Connected Math curriculum,
  • The Connected Math curriculum has very extensive teacher instructions, while the Singapore curriculum is rather thin in this area. Does it follow that teachers using Singapore Math have far more freedom with respect to their instruction methods, or is the intention to make sure that teachers teach Connected Math in a scripted way?
  • The Connected Math texts require more dead trees and I assume cost more than the Singapore texts directly and indirectly (transportation, packaging and the overhead of dealing with more pieces)
  • The voluminous Connected Math texts have far more opportunities for errors, simply based on the amount of text and illustrations included in the books.
  • Madison Country Day School uses Singapore Math.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on Connected Math and Singapore Math around the internet. Maybe it’s time to follow the people (from India, China and Great Britain) and virtualize this while eliminating the textbooks?

Post your comments below.

K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

UW Math Professor Dick Askey kindly took the time to visit with a group of writers and friends recently. Dick discussed a variety of test results, books, articles and links with respect to K-12 math curriculum. Here are a few of them:

  • Test Results:

    Wisconsin is slipping relative to other states in every two year NAP (sp?) Math test (4th and 8th grade). In 1992, Wisconsin 4th graders were 10 points above the national average while in 2003 they were 4 points above. Wisconsin students are slipping between 4th and eighth grades. In fact, white and hispanic children are now performing equivalent to Texas students while Wisconsin black students are performing above Washington, DC and Arkansas (the two lowest performers). He mentioned that there is no serious concern about the slippage.

    30 years ago, the United States had the highest % of people graduating from High School of any OECD country. Today, we’re among the lowest. We also have a higher drop out rate than most OECD countries.

    Said that he has asked Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater twice in the past five years if our District asked for and received corrections for the current connected Math textbooks.

    Mentioned that CorePlus is evidently being used at West High but not Memorial

    Asked why these math performance declines are happening, he mentioned several reasons; “tame mathemeticians”, declining teacher content knowledge (he mentioned the rigor of an 1870’s California Teacher exam) and those who are true believers in the rhetoric.

  • Books:

    Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States

    The Schools by Martin Mayer


Math Curriculum Board Meeting Video Clips

The Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee met monday night, to discuss “Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction” Here are some video clips from the meeting:

Tyrany of Low Expectations: Will lowered test scores bring about broader change in Madison schools?

Chris Rickert via several kind readers:

Wisconsin has a “long way to go in all our racial/ethnic groups,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
My hope is that, given Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly white population, proficiency problems among white students will spur more people to push for policies inside and outside of school that help children — all children — learn.
“I hate to look at it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right,” said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The low performance of white students in our state may just lead to the type and level of change that’s necessary in public education for black and other students of color to succeed as well.”
Indeed, Gamoran said Massachusetts’ implementation of an evaluation system similar to the one Wisconsin is adopting now has been correlated with gains in reading and math proficiency and a narrowing of the racial achievement gap in math. But he emphasized that student achievement is more than just the schools’ responsibility.
Madison has known for a while that its schools are not meeting the needs of too many students of color.

The issue of low expectations and reduced academic standards is not a new one. A few worthwhile, related links:

“American Education Fails Because It Isn’t Education”

Tom DeWeese:

Perhaps the most bizarre of all of the school restructuring programs is mathematics. Math is an exact science, loaded with absolutes. There can be no way to question that certain numbers add up to specific totals. Geometric statements and reasons must lead to absolute conclusions. Instead, today we get “fuzzy” Math. Of course they don’t call it that.
As ED Watch explains, “Fuzzy” math’s names are Everyday Math, Connected Math, Integrated Math, Math Expressions, Constructive Math, NCTM Math, Standards-based Math, Chicago Math, and Investigations, to name a few. Fuzzy Math means students won’t master math: addition, subtraction, multiplications and division.
Instead, Fuzzy Math teaches students to “appreciate” math, but they can’t solve the problems. Instead, they are to come up with their own ideas about how to compute.
Here’s how nuts it can get. A parent wrote the following letter to explain the everyday horrors of “Everyday Math.” “Everyday Math was being used in our school district. My son brought home a multiplication worksheet on estimating. He had ‘estimated’ that 9×9=81, and the teacher marked it wrong. I met with her and defended my child’s answer.
The teacher opened her book and read to me that the purpose of the exercise was not to get the right answer, but was to teach the kids to estimate. The correct answer was 100: kids were to round each 9 up to a 10. (The teacher did not seem to know that 81 was the product, as her answer book did not state the same.)”
Social, political, multicultural and especially environmental issues are rampant in the new math programs and textbooks. One such math text is blatant. Dispersed throughout the eighth grade textbooks are short, half page blocks of text under the heading “SAVE PLANT EARTH.” One of the sections describes the benefits of recycling aluminum cans and tells students, “how you can help.”
In many of these textbooks there is literally no math. Instead there are lessons asking children to list “threats to animals,” including destruction of habitat, poisons and hunting. The book contains short lessons in multiculturalism under the recurring heading “Cultural Kaleidoscope.” These things are simply political propaganda and are there for one purpose – behavior modification. It’s not Math. Parents are now paying outside tutors to teach their children real Math – after they have been forced to sit in classrooms for eight hours a day being force-fed someone’s political agenda.

Madison Superintendent Search Commentary; Groundhog Day, in some ways

Negassi Tesfamichael:

“I think the most important quality we are looking for in an interim superintendent is stability,” School Board member Cris Carusi said. “I don’t think it really matters as much if it’s an internal or external candidate … we’re going to want someone who can provide stability.”

Carusi noted that she hopes the board can engage in an open process when selecting a new superintendent.

“I really hope we have a transparent, public process for choosing a new superintendent where we are able to get input from our staff and our community,” Carusi said. “We absolutely have to do that for our superintendent process and I think on some level for the interim selection process as well.”

Will the interim superintendent eventually be hired as permanent superintendent?

Rainwater was hired as an interim superintendent before the board voted to hire him after conducting its search process. However, whether to have an interim superintendent considered for a long-term post is something the School Board will have to decide as it crafts the characteristics of who it wants to hire as the new district leader.

“When we did our search, we didn’t want the interim to be a person to be considered for the full job,” Howard said. “That’s something the board will have to decide. When we did it six years ago, we determined we didn’t want that person to be in consideration for the job, but that does not have to be the case this time.”

Oh, the places we go: Madison Superintendents (2012):

Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly $15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

“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”

2005 (!): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before: :

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

Georgina Kenyon:

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Related: Connected Math and Reading Recovery.

A $30 Million Puzzle ‘Solution’? What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Like many citizens, journalists, and some of my fellow board members, I have been struggling to make sense of the projected $30 million budget or tax gap. Like others who have tried to understand how we got to the number “$30,” I have tried several approaches to see if I could come to the same conclusion. Some of them focused on an unexpected major rise in spending, or, an unexpected or unexplained loss of revenue beyond the $17 million in state cuts. (See Susan Troller’s Madison School’s ‘Budget Gap’ is Really a Tax Gap, for example.)
The answers for the portion of the gap that I could not understand or explain kept coming back to the tax levy. District staff were patient and helpful in trying to answer my questions, but we still didn’t understand each other. The shortest version of the tax levy explanation comes from the district’s Budget Questions and Answers handout.
To recap, the MMSD $30 million budget gap has been explained thusly by
administration. There are two parts to the gap, $1.2 million in expenses that cannot be met, and $28.6 million shortfall from a combination of state funding cuts and tax levy. To date, administration has explained the gap thusly:
This gap is $28.6 million. This total is composed of three parts:
* $9.2 million cut in state aid the MMSD sustained this year;
* $7.8 million cut in state aid the district will sustain next year;
* $11.6 million of increased costs that come with levying authority – broken out in two parts:
— $7.6 million of increased costs in order to deliver the same services next year that the MMSD is delivering this year, and which the state funding formula allows;
— $4.0 million of increased costs and with levying authority from the approved 2008 referendum)
$28.6 million Tax Shortfall Total
For me, and for others, the sticking point has been the idea that additional levying authority through the referendum and the state funding formula, would add to the shortfall in funds to run our schools. That is, how could more funds turn into a funding loss? Or, put in mathematical terms, how could -17 + 11.6 become -28.6? My math is rusty, and I don’t understand connected math, but it did seem to me that it was unlikely that a negative number would get larger after adding a positive number to it.
Full post on-line at

State Test Scores Adjusted to Match Last Year

Sandy Cullen:

A new statewide assessment used to test the knowledge of Wisconsin students forced a lowering of the curve, a Madison school official said.
The results showed little change in the percentages of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels.
But that’s because this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations- Criterion Referenced Tests proved harder for students than last year’s assessment, said Kurt Kiefer, director of research and evaluation for the Madison School District, prompting adjustments to the statewide cut-off scores for determining minimal, basic, proficient and advanced levels that were in line with last year’s percentages, Kiefer said.
“The intent was not to make a harder test,” Kiefer said, adding that the test was particularly more difficult at the eighth- and 10th-grade levels. “It had nothing to do with how smart the kids were.”
While scores can differ from district to district, Kiefer said, increases in students testing proficient and advanced are not as profound as districts might have hoped.

Kevin Carey recently wrote how states inflate their progress under NCLB:

But Wisconsin’s remarkable district success rate is mostly a function of the way it has used its flexibility under NCLB to manipulate the statistical underpinnings of the AYP formula.

I’m glad Sandy is taking a look at this.
UW Emeritus Math Professor Dick Askey mentioned changes in state testing during a recent Math Curriculum Forum:

We went from a district which was above the State average to one with scores at best at the State average. The State Test was changed from a nationally normed test to one written just for Wisconsin, and the different levels were set without a national norm. That is what caused the dramatic rise from February 2002 to November 2002. It was not that all of the Middle Schools were now using Connected Mathematics Project, which was the reason given at the meeting for these increases.

Alan Borsuk has more:

This year’s results also underscore a vexing question: Why does the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced drop from eighth to 10th grades? The decline was true almost across the board, including across ethnic groups, except in language arts. In reading statewide, the percentage of students who were advanced and proficient held close to steady from third through eighth grade and then dropped 10 points, from 84% to 74% for 10th grade. The decline was even steeper for black and Hispanic students – in each case, 17-point drops from eighth to 10th grade.
Overall, lower test scores at 10th grade are part of a broader picture of concern about how students are doing in high school that has put that level of education on the front burner nationwide, whether it is special programming from Oprah Winfrey or efforts by the National Governors Association, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or others.
But assistant state schools superintendent Margaret Planner said one factor in the 10th-grade drop simply might be that many students at that level do not take the tests very seriously. Their own standing is not affected by how they do, although the status of their school could be affected seriously. She referred to the tests as “low stakes” for students and “high stakes” for schools under the federal education law.

Planner was most recently principal at Madison’s Thoreau Elementary School.
Madison Metrpolitan School District’s press release.

Better MMSD budget process? Maybe next year.

The National School Board Association argues that local school boards exist to translate the community’s educational goals for its children into programs and to hold staff accountable for the quality and effectiveness of the programs:

Your school board sets the standard for achievement in your district, incorporating the community’s view of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Your school board also is responsible for working with the superintendent to establish a valid process for measuring student success and, when necessary, shifting resources to ensure that the district’s goals are achieved.

Don’t expect to see that kind of process as the Madison School Board adopts a $383.7M budget for 2006-07.
On April 24, 2006, Superintendent Art Rainwater presented his proposed budget for 2006-07 to the school board. MMSD Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006-07 To the credit of the administration, the documents are better organized and provide more detail than in recent years.
Nonetheless, the board’s adoption of next year’s budget will likely be an unsatisfying process for parents and the community. I say this because the Madison board has again skipped the decision-making steps that are necessary for budget decisions to occur within a framework that we can all understand and support.
Long before the school board tries to evaluate a budget, the board should have translated the community’s vision for the education of its children into specific, measurable goals for student achievement. Key Work of School Boards
We don’t have such goals except for third grade reading, completion of algebra and geometry and attendance. What kind of budget commitment should we make to offering a comprehensive high school program? We don’t know, because we have set no standards for the “challenging, contemporary curriculum” that we claim is a strategic priority for the district. What funds should we commit to fine arts education? We don’t know, because we have no achievement goals in the arts or any other curriculum area. Should we cease funding a “Race and Equity” position at the $100,000 a year level? We don’t know because we don’t have objectives for the position to accomplish.
The board should also have developed a shared understanding of how data will be used to evaluate the district’s progress toward meeting its goals.
We don’t determine which data will be used in decisions about educational programs or any other aspect of the budget. Should we cease the “same service” approach to the teaching of reading? Should we continue to invest in “instructional coaches” who teach teachers how to present the Connected Math program? Again, we don’t know. The administration claims that its curriculum decisions are data-driven. However, the administration does not share the student achievement data behind our “same service” approach or proposed new programs nor has the board agreed to rely on whatever data that the administration may use in its internal analysis.
As the result of the April elections, the board has two new members: Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira. Both promised to focus on standards and accountability during their campaigns. Maybe next year will be better. That’s important because the fuss that occurs each spring as the board struggles to “restore” programs or staff that the superintendent has cut should not occur. We should not be on the defensive–always having to create our own individual rationales for replacing cut items or changing programs. We should be on the offensive—judging the superintendent’s budget against the goals that we have set for our programs and the measurements of effectiveness that we have agreed on.
Please stay tuned.
Ruth Robarts
Member, Madison School Board

A Few Notes on the Superintendent’s Evaluation & Curriculum

Several writers have mentioned the positive news that the Madison Board of Education has reviewed Superintendent Art Rainwater for the first time since 2002. I agree that it is a step in the right direction.
In my view, the first responsibility of the Board and Administration, including the Superintendent is curriculum: Is the Madison School District using the most effective methods to prepare our children for the future?
There seems to be some question about this:

  • Language: The District has strongly embraced whole language (Troy Dassler notes in the comments that he has been trained in balanced literacy). I would certainly be interested in more comments on this (and other) point(s). [Ed Blume mentions that “”Balanced literacy” became the popular new term for whole language when whole language crumbled theoretically and scientifically.”] UW Professor Mark Seidenberg provides background on whole language and raises many useful questions about it. Related: The District has invested heavily in Reading Recovery. Ed Blume summarized 8 years of District reading scores and notes that Madison 3rd graders rank below state wide average for children children in the advanced and proficient categories. (Madison spends about 30% more than the state average per student)
  • Math: The District embraces Connected Math. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has raised a number of questions about this curriculum, not the least of which is whether our textbooks include all of the corrections. A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks demonstrates that reading skills are critical to student achievement.
  • Sherman Middle School’s curriculum changes
  • West High School’s curriculum changes and families leaving
  • Same Service Budget Approach“: I think the District’s annual same service approach reflects a general stagnation.


PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues

(With apologies to readers – it is not possible to respond using the comments feature on the blog.)
Response to Lucy’s Post on PEOPLE program
JOAN: Tempting though it is to rebut your arguments tit for tat I am not sure it will necessarily be productive.
RESPONSE: I would be interested in a “tit for tat” response to my comments on the reasons why the PEOPLE program is needed.
JOAN: Let’s back up and look at the assumptions underlying this program. The first is that minority students are not getting adequate preparation in their home schools. You assert that this is true in the well-staffed, well-funded Madison school district because of institutional racism. You believe your visual review of a school proves your point. That’s not particularily strong evidence.
RESPONSE: I think you need to go back and read what I wrote. I said,

“All of the above examples are conditions that I have witnessed first hand or, in one or two cases, have heard of from other parents – including parents of white students. When the above conditions disappear and/or white students experience these same conditions, we can talk about equity.”

Nowhere did I say or imply that my comments were “based on a visual review of a school.” It is true that there is no systematic, methodologically defensible, study of how students of color and their parents fare in Madison’s schools. I would welcome a well-crafted study of this nature.


‘Work-from-anywhere’ families are increasingly crossing the globe to provide their children with a progressive curriculum

Liz Rowlinson:

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During the pandemic, Despina and Taso decided that the US public school system wasn’t working for their eight-year-old daughter. The Greek-American family took a “leap of faith” and moved from Massachusetts to the Monferrato wine region of Piedmont in northern Italy, where a new Village Forest School had just opened.

“We can work from anywhere and were culturally drawn back to Europe. The new school offered the sort of education we dreamt of: letting children remain children for longer,” says Despina — now also the mother of twin boys — who declined to give her surname. “It’s been a massive change for the family but we now have a lifestyle more closely aligned with our values of living a slower life more closely connected with the natural world and the people around us.”

A typical school day starts with the children singing songs together, combining counting and language skills, before two blocks of classroom-based lessons: maths, history, geography etc, taught by both an Italian and an English teacher. Lunch is based on the nose-to-tail, non-processed food principles of the Weston Price diet — there’s rice soaked in bone broth, for example, or a ragù made from the whole organs of a cow or pig. After lunch there will be art, crafts, woodwork, maybe horseriding and even grape-picking at harvest time.

PISA 2018 Results (Volume VI)

OECD, via a kind reader:

OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) examines what students know in reading, mathematics and science, and what they can do with what they know. It provides the most comprehensive and rigorous international assessment of student learning outcomes to date. Results from PISA indicate the quality and equity of learning outcomes attained around the world, and allow educators and policy makers to learn from the policies and practices applied in other countries. This is one of six volumes that present the results of the PISA 2018 survey, the seventh round of the triennial assessment. Volume VI: Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? explores students’ ability to examine issues of local, global and cultural significance; understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others; engage in open, appropriate and effective interactions across cultures; and take action for collective well-being and sustainable development. The volume explores students’ outcomes on the cognitive test and corresponding questionnaire in addition to their experiences of global and intercultural learning at school and beyond.

Covid-19 and Madison’s K-12 World

Scott Girard (Machine generated transcript):

Hi, I’m cap tines K-12 education reporter Scott Gerard. Today. Our cap times IDFs panel will discuss how will COVID-19 change K-12 education. I’m lucky to have three wonderful panelists with me to help answer that question. Marilee McKenzie is a teacher at Middleton’s Clark street community school, where she has worked since the school was in its planning stages.

She’s in her [00:03:00] 11th year of teaching. Dr. Gloria Ladson billings is a nationally recognized education expert who was a U w Madison faculty member for more than 26 years, including as a professor in the departments of curriculum and instruction, educational policy studies and educational leadership and policy analysis.

She is also the current president of the national Academy of education. Finally dr. Carlton Jenkins is the new superintendent of the Madison metropolitan school district. He started the districts top job in August, coming from the Robbinsdale school district in Minnesota, where he worked for the past five years, Jenkins began his career in the Madison area.

Having worked in Beloit and at Memorial high school in early 1990s before moving to various districts around the country. Thank you all so much for being here. Mary Lee, I’m going to start with you. You’ve been working with students directly throughout this pandemic. How has it gone? Both in the spring when changes were very sudden, and then this fall with a summer to reflect and [00:04:00] plan, it’s been interesting for sure.

Um, overall, I would say the it’s been hard. There has been nothing about this have been like, ah, It’s really, it makes my life easy. It’s been really challenging. And at the same time, the amount of growth and learning that we’ve been able to do as staff has been incredible. And I think about how teachers have moved from face-to-face to online to then planning for.

A myriad of possibilities. And then, you know, ultimately not knowing where the next step might be. And so, um, although it’s been challenging and there has been so many times where there’s been frustration or glitches or those kinds of pieces, I also have watched. Staff, um, grow and blossom and try to [00:05:00] make the best of a situation.

Um, and I’ve also watched our district try to figure out, okay, how do we negotiate this? So it’s been hard. There’s no, no way around that. And, um, I also think we are learning and positioning ourselves to make some bigger changes down the road. Thank you, dr. Jenkins. You’ve spoken about how the transition to virtual learning went and Robbinsdale.
When you were there this spring, what lessons did you learn from that experience that you were able to bring here in Madison as you started the job with just a month until the school year began? Well, um, there were a lot of lessons out of this, the first one, the whole idea that the science. Was real. Um, we initially, uh, sent out a communication about COVID-19 February to six in our district.

And then again in February 28th, and we were watching what was coming out of Hopkins in terms of the information CDC, [00:06:00] but it was from afar, but when it hit us and we had the initial, um, case in our district, even though we had read up on it, it was real. And so in terms of all of your plans, when you have a crisis that we’ve done before, we’ve had crisis in schools, but nothing like this things we had talked about doing way out five years, 10 years from now with technology, we talked about it.

We’ve been talking about building our infrastructure. We went from being the first district to close in the state of Minnesota thinking we were closing for two days to disinfect, right. And we’ll be right back. To now the real reality of what we’re going through. But the lessons we learned in is in terms of how much we depend on one another and how much we need our children to be in close proximity to us, our realization of the children who are [00:07:00] behind, uh, during the traditional schools.

Or just illuminated 10 times, you know, more that, wow, we really need to do a better job of trying to engage, not only the children, but the families. This went from her, just totally child centered to whole family, whole community. And so COVID-19 for us has said let’s pause and check on the social, emotional wellbeing, the mental health aspect, and understanding our community even deeper.

Because the economic employment, the health, all these things that happened. So as a staff, we had to change our delivery models for instruction. Uh, initially in a crisis, we were trying to put in model the same things we were doing in traditional schools that did not work. And we learned from our students and our staff and our community, we needed to change it and not be so much it’s just on associate motion or that we didn’t.

Continue to [00:08:00] try to continue with the high levels of instruction. But initially we were just thrown off guard. I’m gonna be honest with you. And over the summer, you know, we worked together to really come up with a model that we think is better, but we’re not done. We’re still learning. Even being here in Madison.

Now the transition Madison staff did a lot in terms of just like across the country. People were taking food out to the community, getting devices out in the community, getting hotspots out. And we were not prepared for that level of support that we needed to give, but I was amazed at how all the staff and the community came together to try to get those things done.

Yeah. I still remember the lack of sharedness around the closures and how long it would be here. I talked to a number of teachers who said bye to their students for two weeks, and then it ended up being the whole semester. Thank you so much, dr. Ladson billings, this summer, you were involved in a program at Penn park that had some students outdoors learning STEM lessons for three [00:09:00] days a week.
What were the most important aspects of that sort of programming this summer for you? Well, I think dr. Jenkins actually hit upon what was central for me. I know that people are concerned about learning loss or learning, uh, opportunities, missed learning opportunities. But first let’s be clear. Our children are learning all the time.
They are human beings. There is no time when they are not normal. Maybe when they’re sleeping, I learned they’re always learning. Now, whether they’re learning academic things or curricular based things, that’s something different. But what I was doing really focused on and developing that program and we call it smartly in the park, um, I knew that the, the STEM.

Attraction will be there for the wider community. But my focus was on the children’s social, emotional and mental health needs. So many of [00:10:00] our kids are isolated. They, you know, they got a parent who was trying to go to work. Who says you may not leave the house. Okay. You got to stay here. And we figured that out when we started this with the lunches kids, weren’t coming to get the lunches because they were told don’t leave the house.

So, uh, at Mount Zion, one of the things we did is we got, we got the van together. We collected the lunches and we delivered them. So I said, this can’t be good for our kids to be this isolated. So, you know, we did not have sort of assessment metrics or any of those things in place for the summer. What it was, was the opportunity for kids to be in face to face communication with one another and with caring adults.

And I think that’s what we’re learning in this whole process. We can talk about curriculum. We can talk about instruction. But we are in the human being business. We don’t have any human beings. We have no business. And so indeed until we meet those basic [00:11:00] needs, those social, emotional, and mental health needs, we are, we’re not going to be successful.

And I think those were really underscored, uh, as, as spring went on and into the summer. Thank you very much. And that actually leads into another question I have here. Uh, all of you have spoken to me or publicly about social, emotional learning, being as important right now, uh, as academic learning, but how can that be done through a screen?
Um, I’m going to start with Mary Lee just because you’ve been trying to do that with your students. Okay. Um, so there’s a number of ways to do it. Um, It would be a misnomer to think that all of our students were showing up to school on a daily basis when we were seeing them face to face. And so, as teachers, as staff members, we’ve developed ways of connecting with students beyond the physical classroom to begin with.

Right. But there’s also ways to do that in front of a screen. Right. Taking the [00:12:00] time to check in with students. Yeah. I have 50 minutes with my group of students. But guess what? I spend that first five, 10, and that’s at least checking in, maybe it’s a silly question. What’s your favorite fall activity to do or fall flavor.

Right? It could be something silly like that, but it also could be something of like, how are you right now? Where are you at? Um, and then on top of that, it’s meeting students where they’re at some of our students. I have students who are not ready to do a zoom meeting. It’s too much for them. The and a number of ways.

So guess what I’m doing? Phone calls and text messaging and finding ways to connect with them in, in lots of different ways. Do I wish that I could be face to face with them? Absolutely. A hundred percent. And we are, we are finding ways to make those small connections that then lead to being able to open up to bigger connections.

And trying to provide some space during our class time or whatever, you know, [00:13:00] synchronous time that we have to also let them talk with each other. Because like dr. Ladson billings said our kids are isolated in their houses and some of them haven’t seen peers or reached out to peers. So creating some structures and spaces to have some of those conversations, to be able to have engaged in that discussion, that would happen in a classroom.

And, you know, creating those spaces. What are you hearing from staff and what are staff doing in Madison to foster those sorts of things? First of all, let me just say thank you, Mary. I mean, she really spoke to what I’m hearing from a number of our staff and, uh, not just here in Madison, but just throughout the country, as a meeting with other superintendents regularly on a national level to talk about what we can do to continue to build these relationships.
And funny go back to doctor Lassen billings. When she started talking about culturally relevant pedagogy and always look at that in terms of relationship building. [00:14:00] And that’s what Mary was talking about so way before everyone else was talking about it, that the last and bill has been talking about this whole thing of relationship relationship.
And we talk about relationships, but the reality of relationships as just describe that’s where our teachers are. Another thing in terms of uplifting. The voices of the teachers, all of the assessments. Some individuals think that when still need to be hard on the AP exam, harder and act, that’s not the main thing right now.

The main thing is that we put our arms around our students, around our staff, around our community. We see one another and we uplift the voices of the students and of the staff. How are they really experiencing this new thing? Taking those voices in the emphasis of our planning in the past, a lot of times we have gotten to planning from my office, all the other offices, the hierarchy that we’ve known must be flipped up on his head right [00:15:00] now that has not even worked doing a traditional for all.

Children serve some children. Well, but not all children. This is the time that we’re saying before you start the lesson, ask a simple question. But a big question. How are you today? And then pause and listen. Okay. And so our staff intentionally, but when we design our lessons and coming back and looking at how we get students in groups, how we’ll listen to them, individually, students talk to students and we have to be very careful about, um, just doing the content at this time.

But at the same time, our students. They want the structure. They need the structure to help them have some sense of what am I to do today. Parents need it. The other thing we’re doing, trying to connect more with parents and for us, we’re finding that we are actually having more contact with some parents than what we did prior to COVID in particular black and Brown [00:16:00] families.

We have the one group that’s been disengaged before Kobe that’s even more now. Particularly with black and Brown and special needs students. But right now, at this time, we’re trying to make sure we have that additional communication for those students who have been most marginalized prior to covert and now doing covert.

And so I think those things, uh, and students know we’re paying attention to them, staff know that we’re hearing their voices, parents know that we’re hearing their voice and then being prepared to pivot right now we’re in the middle of making shifts from what we’ve learned, even since school started back.

Our early learners, we have to define what the screen time mean, how we’re approaching our earliest learners, our ELL students, how do we give them the support? How do we support our students who may be special needs and just students who may be having anxiety and social, emotional issues and staff. So that’s what we’re trying to do to build a relationship, see people, and then actually.

Serve them based on [00:17:00] their needs and then provide the overall support, uh, systematically, not just an isolated classroom, how will all of our teachers in our face with our students now, that’s what we’re doing. Thank you so much for detailing all of that. Dr. Ladson billings, what sorts of best practices are you seeing on social, emotional learning right now?

So, you know, it’s interesting, there is an instructional practice that we had before all of this called the flipped classroom. And it suggests that a lot of the learning take place online and then you come face to face to do sort of minimal things. Well, I’m seeing that we have in flipped relationships.

What do I mean by that? Is this this stuff worried about in terms of communicating electronically, our kids already know how to do that. They can sit in a room right next to their best friend, and they’re not talking, they’re texting them. It’s become their way of communicating so we can learn some things [00:18:00] from them and not presume that we have to be the ones who are telling them, uh, I want to know, and visited a class, you know, visit as an electronic yeah.
In Baltimore. And I asked the kids, uh, what they liked or didn’t like about. Oh, virtual learning. And one kid said, Oh, I love it. He said, cause when she gets on my nerves, I just turn her off. He’s he’s I couldn’t do that when, when I was in the class, but to sit there and listen. So it’s interesting that the way that they are adjusting and adapting, um, and I think we can take some hints from them.
Uh, no, we don’t want everybody on screens all the time. I think we’re all sick of that. But I do think we can be a lot more creative with it and what I will say. And I think, you know, thinking of dr. Jenkins sitting there, I think that we’re having a diff totally different relationship with our it departments that before they were this group on the side, they were the [00:19:00] resource people.

If my internet goes down, if I can’t get my email, I call them they’re there moved to the center. And we are now in a partnership with them, which is the way it should have been, that they should have been our instructional technology folks as opposed to information technology on the side. So I think we’re learning a lot of how to improve education, uh, as a result of this.

Thank you so much. Are any of you concerned about the screen time for students right now? Does anyone want to talk about how they’re trying to manage it? Well, interesting. You asked that question because that’s been our conversation the last several weeks from parents, from students and staff, uh, and our team.

First of all, we need to redefine what the screen time and all the research prior to Colvin, we need to look at that research with a critical eye [00:20:00] because. You may be on a zoom. And as with dr. Lessen villain just said, the kid may be there. It may be working independently. It’s on, but you’re working independently.

You’re not just interfacing eyes and concerned about, um, whether or not the students engage from a visual straight up point. It just may be on. And so we need to define it first of all, and that’s what we’ve been talking about, but we do need to pay attention to our learning earliest learners. You know, four and five year olds and what can they really manage?

And do we want them to be in such a structured environment? Whereas they’re not being able to be them be independent learners because students can learn independent in what some would call it, unstructured environment. I’d say playtime playtime is very important. So we need to think about it on levels of primary and secondary.

Now, secondary students. They’re on it, but they’re doing it in a totally different way than what our early learners. And so we just need to be respectful. Then [00:21:00] that goes back to listening to the student. And sometimes they can’t manage as much as we were trying to. We’re trying to give them, we have, the pendulum has swung from last spring, not being as much.

And people say, Hey, we want more too. I think sometimes now we’ve got a little too far. And we need to engage the students, hear that voice engaged the teachers. The most important thing right now is to engage that teacher, those formative assessments will allow us to know how we need to pivot along with engaging the voices of the studio.

That’s where we are with. What about you for high schoolers, Mary Lee. I mean screen time is a conversation that we have with our high schoolers, even when we’re face to face in the building of how much time are they spending on their Chromebook in the classroom. Um, because. It’s still a lot. And then we expect them to go home and do homework.

And that a lot of times is on [00:22:00] the Chromebook or on a computer or on their phones. And then you bring in the phone piece. So are a lot of times my high schoolers are definitely multitasking with a phone in one hand and a zoom meeting in the other. And we’ve had some really good conversations about that.

Um, because as we kind of go back to that social, emotional learning, The high school students. And not that the elementary aren’t either, but like the high school students are searching and seeking that social connection. And right now it’s the device. It’s the phone that brings that social connection right level than it already did, even beyond, you know, students sitting next to each other and texting each other.

Like there’s, there’s so much more there. Um, I don’t know if there’s a good answer. For any of that? I think we have to keep learning. I think we have to keep a critical eye of thinking about how can we make our screen-time meaningful. And how can we also pull off the [00:23:00] screen? How can we get creative and pull off of the screen and get kids back outside?

I think of the STEM program that dr. LED’s and billings talked about of being outside working, um, one benefit we’ve had is we’ve had students in our, uh, community garden that we have outside of our school. And I look at that and seeing that is been amazing. Um, that they are engaging with, um, the food chain and how things are produced and you know, how can we build that into schools all over, not just at school, but in their homes, in their communities and connecting there.

I feel that it’s in billings. I know screen time was a concern. And part of the reason that you were so happy with the program this summer, that was outdoors. What are your thoughts on students avoiding too much screen time? So earlier this year, well, probably late, late, late summer, as we were thinking about going back to school, I did a workshop [00:24:00] for.

A local bank that has branches in Milwaukee and green Bay. And because a lot of those, uh, employees, so, you know, I still have to work, but what about my kids? And so we had really good conversation and I literally helped them build a schedule for whether it was elementary, middle, or high school. And I built into that schedule, like stop and go outside.

Like that was like written there. Oh, cause one of the things that we are forgetting is that, you know, as human beings, we, we are mind, body and spirit. We’re not just minds. And so this is an opportunity to literally say it’s important that you get some exercise. I talked to, to the parents about having more than one in one place in their home.
Or their kids to be engaged in their learning. So yeah, maybe the, the den or their room is where they, they might do English or [00:25:00] literacy or reading and mathematics, but maybe it’s the kitchen table or the kitchen Island where you’re going to do the craft activity. And then get outside, you know, minimum amount of time.

We need the very things that we need to do in a well-developed face to face program. We still can keep going, uh, modify at home. We want to make sure that our kids are taking care of their bodies. Um, you know, one of the unanticipated. A result of this pandemic is that a number of our high school students are, are taking jobs.

And we hadn’t thought about that. A merely talked about knowing that that some of the kids are not checking in. They’re not checking in cause they’re working. Uh, and they’re adding hours if they already had a job. So they need to be active. They need to minimize the amount of time that they have to be.

In front of those [00:26:00] screens. Um, cause they haven’t drawn to the many way. Um, my generation was drawn to the TV and back then it was like the television producers had enough sense to turn us off at midnight. It’s like, we go watch no more, but we are, you know, we’re in, in a generation in which. People getting most of their information through the screen.

So we’ve got to break it up and make it, uh, an opportunity for them to also get their bodies moving. And so that they just don’t, you know, secondary, um, activity is what leads to all the sort of heart disease and diabetes and things like that. So we don’t want to set them up for, um, a negative future.

Well, I have one other part about that, and I know we we’re talking about with the students screen time. We’ve also been talking about we’re wrestling as adults. When do we begin our day? When does our day end? So we’ve got to have more calibration around this whole moment. We’re [00:27:00] in, it seems like there’s no ending to it.

We did have a set time doing traditional, but now you’re at that desk. You’re in your space working from early morning to late at night. So we have to recalibrate on that. And I think as we think about ourselves, That will help influence what we’re doing with our students. Realizing too, as you mentioned about the phone’s constantly going, and if we don’t do that as dr.

said, it impacts our health. When our minds never shut down. And that’s whole about the whole sleep time study. And that’s another discussion, but yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, Mary Lee, how, how has that been for you as a teacher wanting to connect with students, but trying to live your own life? Well, and I, I thank you for bringing that up.

I really appreciate it because I do think as teachers, we spend a lot of time thinking about our students screen time, and then we’re not necessarily reflecting on how exhausted we are and understanding why that is. Um, I, I taught [00:28:00] online before online was the cool thing too do. And so I had to learn that I was, I was balancing both teaching some face to face some online.

And when I first started teaching that online piece, I realized I was working all hours of the day and I was responding to emails at eight o’clock at night and at five 30 in the morning. And I realized I had to set some boundaries for myself and. As a community of staff members, we haven’t, we haven’t, I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet because we feel like there’s so much to do and we’re learning and trying to stay on top of so many things.

And as I think about our staff, um, yesterday we were in a professional development and we, we did try to take some times to take a break, but it just becomes all consuming. And, um, I appreciate dr. Jenkins thinking about the staff and how [00:29:00] yes. We might be teaching face to face or not face to face, but on zoom, synchronous, you know, from nine to two, but guess what?

Our job doesn’t end there. And so then we’re on the computer on a screen beyond those hours, a lot of times, many hours beyond those hours. And so, um, And I think we are, we’re learning and we’re going to hopefully get into a place where we’ve gotten through the first term. We’ve started to realize, okay, here’s some strategies that really work and how we can set some of those boundaries.

Thank you both for speaking to that aspect of this, one of the other pieces that we’ve spoken about Mary Lee is that sort of this time has illustrated. That no learning system is going to work for everyone, including virtual, but, but I think, uh, a lot of people assumed the other system was just the way it was, but this has highlighted that it’s not going to work universally.

How can education move forward with that? [00:30:00] Understanding that not all systems work for every student. Um, I’ll actually start with dr. Ladson billings on this one. So now that you’ve, um, Toss me a nice softball, cause it’s kind of what I’ve been talking about all along all, since we’ve been in the pandemic and I’ve suggested that, um, this is an opportunity for us to do what I’ve called the hard reset, and I’ve actually used the analogy of the devices that we all have, that when they don’t work.

Um, we, you know, try something, things, we take the SIM cards out, put them back in the battery out, put it back. They don’t work, they don’t work. And we, we, we head off to the store, whether it’s the Apple store or the Samsung store, Android, wherever you got your device and somebody who was about 17 years old, wearing a tee shirt, tells you the dreaded words, we’re going to have to do a hard reset.

And what they mean. I mean, by that is if you haven’t backed up everything. When [00:31:00] they give you that phone back, all your contacts are going to be gone. All your pictures are going to be gone wherever you were in the candy crush. Thing’s going to be gone. You’re going to have a phone that’s like it was when it came to you from the factory.

And that’s really where I believe we are in education. I don’t think, I think we can, you know, when people say I can’t wait to get back to normal, well, normal. For the kids that I’m most concerned about was a disaster. Normal was they weren’t reading normal was that they were being suspended at a disproportionate rate.

Normal was, they were over identified for special education. Normal was, they were being expelled normal was they weren’t getting an advanced placement. So with the heart reset, We have this opportunity, you know, I’ve been siting a Indian novelist by the name of our Arundhati Roy who says this, the pandemic is a portal.

It’s a gateway from the old world into the new, [00:32:00] and that we have an opportunity. I know we’re all talking about how horrible this is, but I want to say that it’s also an opportunity. There’s also a chance for us to have a clean slate, to think differently about what we’re doing too. Focus differently.

I’ve got a panel coming up next week with the national Academy. And one of the things I’m going to say is that we need to center science and I’m not just saying science curriculum, but the problems of living in a democracy, whether it is climate change, whether it’s economic downturn, whether it’s an inability for people to access a quality education, that if we send it problems, then the curriculum will come along because.

You know, you, you can’t make a case if you’re not literate. Right. So I don’t want you to, just to read, because I want you to have a set of skills. I want you to be able to solve a problem. So I just think, yeah, again, I can’t remember whether it was [00:33:00] Ronald manual or some political person who said we should never let you know, not take advantage of a good crisis.

Well, we got a good crisis here and we need to take advantage of it. Mary Lee, how can you bring that idea of systems? Not universally working for every student into teaching? Uh, so I I’ve been really lucky. Um, I work at Clark street community school. We have started this step. We’ve gotten rid of grades.

Not, standard-based not one, two, three, four. Like we have truly, there is no GPA, there’s no grades. We are mastery-based. So we’re actually looking at when you write something or when you read something or when you do some math work, we’re looking at that and saying, okay, where can you improve? Where have you really mastered this skill, that kind of piece.

Um, we’ve looked at how do we. [00:34:00] Look at personalized plans for students. And how are the students taking the lead on that plan? What do they want to do? What do they want to pursue? I do think this, I cannot second enough. What doctor Ladson billings is saying is this is such an opportunity. That we can start saying maybe one size doesn’t fit all.

And here is our chance to actually make those changes that maybe we don’t need all of our students in our building at the same time, in order for them to be growing and learning, maybe we can connect with our communities. I think of, um, what dr. Jenkins was saying about how, you know, the outreach and the connection with community centers and community groups.

Maybe we need to make that the norm as compared to just the crisis situation. So I think there’s so many different opportunities within that to say, huh? Turns out when we take some of these pieces away, not everything [00:35:00] falls apart and maybe we are actually seeing students grow and seeing students thrive in, in a way that we haven’t seen before.

How can a whole school district embrace those ideas? Do you think. I think it’s critical that we all pause and look at what we have and turns out COVID-19 intersecting with the whole racial injustice. Um, since the emphasi of our country. For me, when I publicly witnessed mr. Floyd being lynched 16.2 miles from our home.

Um, a moment as an educator of 30 years, I said, I’m not doing my job. I’m not being disruptive enough. It came full circle, the historical wrongs of black and Brown, poor children, special needs children. [00:36:00] And I’m saying, what can we do? That was the question I asked. And I said, it’s time that we go back and look on the promise of America.
Of America and hold America accountable, but it’s reciprocal accountability. We have to do our parts and America must do their parts. We’re fundamentally flawed, no matter which system we try to implement right now, we’re fundamentally flawed how we resource education. We need to make education, the main thing.

And when I say resource, see, it’s not just money. It’s the resources. Be it human. Be it an opportunity for advancement once. An individual would come educated. This is an opportunity for us to hold America true to his promise. When Abraham Lincoln said we came together to form a more perfect union. This is the time to form a more perfect union and to be all inclusive, put the schools in a community and hold the community accountable.

Put the community in the schools [00:37:00] to hold schools accountable. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s not just schools is businesses. Is healthcare. It’s all about the employment. And I just think, regardless of where we stand, which system, if we don’t see the people, and if we don’t have a service mentality about the people, right.
And trying to support the people and we develop policies that impact our practices, that impact the people that are still not taken into that promise. We are Americans. I think this is the greatest opportunity in my time in education. It’s like I’ve had a rebirth. I consider myself as a first year educator right now, not superintendent dropped the titles.
That’s nonsensical, drop the titles and let’s just come together and do the work whichever system we designed, make sure it’s one of excellence and not non excellence. I think critically when we say excellent [00:38:00] excellence is not some children reading at 18% and other children reading it. 64%. And we’re trying to compare the students, black and Brown students to white students who are scoring at 64%.
64% does not put us on a competitive level internationally. That’s the very reason in math and science, we had 32 and 34 in terms of our rating. When you look at the performance of international that says, this is an opportunity for America to really lead how America can lead. And I truly believe with the great science that’s here in Madison.

Number one public institution share parking lots with MMS D share a parking lot is no reason that we can’t come together. Take the science, take the practice, listening to the students, listen to the staff and listen to the community. Whichever system we come up with. We’ve come up with it together. And it’s all in.

That’s what I believe that we have to do in a system that we choose must maintain [00:39:00] unhuman perspective. And not just test outcome perspective. Thank you all very much for that per those perspectives. We need to take a quick break here and we’ll be back to talk more about teaching and learning. Going forward.

Cap times idea Fest 2020 is made possible by the generous support of our spots. Presenting sponsor the bear-ish group that UBS a financial services firm with global access and a local focus to pursue what matters most. For its clients. Major sponsors are health X ventures, backing entrepreneurs who are creating value with digital health solutions, exact sciences pursuing earlier detections and life changing answers in the fight against cancer courts.

Health plans built with you in mind and Madison gas and electric. Your community energy company with goal is net zero carbon electricity. By 2050 co-sponsors are Epic systems and the Godfrey con law firm, [00:40:00] other sponsors are Wisconsin alumni research foundation savings bank, UnityPoint health Meriter cargo coffee, and the forward theater company, media partners are the Wisconsin state journal and

Welcome back to our panel on how COVID-19 will change the future of education. So one of the things I think a lot of students and adults are facing right now through this pandemic is uncertainty. Uh, in their lives, how can teachers and, uh, educational institutions help students through that uncertainty, uh, while also managing, you know, their, their own, uh, challenges, Mary Lee, I’ll start with you.
Um, I think it starts with. Well, going back to the question of [00:41:00] how are we approaching social, emotional wellness? How are we looking at the wellness needs of our students, of our families and of our teachers? Um, I think we have spent a lot of last spring. Early this fall saying, okay, we’re going to check the box on making sure our kids are okay.

And I do have some concern that we’re going to, you know, get further in and be like, Oh, well we already checked that box. So we don’t need to continue to do that. And that’s where I think parents and staff members and students and administration and the greater community can help, continue to check in to.

Keep that pulse. Um, we’re going to head into winter here soon, whether or not the weather today actually looks like that. Um, and that’s going to change the dynamic. And so as we continue through these different phases, as the data changes as well, different events come through in the next few months, we need to continue [00:42:00] to check in, um, because the uncertainty is not right, going away, not for awhile.

And. The more that we are being aware of the mental health need. The more that we continue to message to families that the wellness of your family is of the utmost importance. Yes. We want students learning. We want students growing and they’re going to continue to do that. Especially when they are. Wow.

Especially when they have levels of security and that could look like a lot of different things, whether that’s a schedule. I love how dr. Ladson billings talked about working with families of how do you do a schedule? How do you actually, we make a schedule I’m going, I wonder if we’ve done that with our parents?

I don’t know if we have, we’ve talked with some of our high schools students about doing that, but that might be really great for our elementary students to think about. We’ve actually set up a schedule as teachers I’m really skilled at that. It’s what I live in, right? Like that’s my world that I live in.

Not everybody lives in that world. So as we [00:43:00] continue on, we have to continue doing those checkpoints. We can’t just check a box and say that we’re moving forward. Dr. Jenkins on that similar note. I mean, how can the district give parents and students certainty right now? I think right now we have to truly just be honest with the community.
We’re in a state of uncertainty and it’s all about how you view it. Uh, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world because we’re uncertain. We’ll give you as much information as we can, based upon the information we’re getting, but I’m also really pushing for parents and for staff to be very careful about what information coming to you.

For example, there is a, an economist out of Harvard Shetty. He just put this piece out based upon his metrics really would fall into discern online curriculum about Wisconsin [00:44:00] and the high socio economic students have increased learning 83.3% on his own online curriculum and the lower socioeconomic students have.

Decrease by 1%. So we know we have gaps, we’re Wisconsin, number one in the nation. Right. But what does this type of data mean inflammation when you get it, it contained to perpetuate narratives of someone else versus trying to understand your own realities. And so that narrative individual may take, do we even use the Zurn curriculum in all of Wisconsin?

No, but right now the narrative is, these are the things that’s happening. So no, the information and from where it come, no, the metrics do your homework as much as you can to be in alignment with the guidance that’s coming out, we’re in a medical situation, the academic piece. And I wholeheartedly agree [00:45:00] with dr.

Our students are learning right to the staff. I’m saying, Hey, give yourself some space and grace and give the students in space and grace. You didn’t turn it in about two o’clock. Nope. Zero, hold up. Wait a minute. That kid was at home helping three of their siblings. You don’t know all the situation, ask questions before we make those final decisions.

Same thing to parents in particular, parents who are working and have children at home, give yourself some space and grace give you students in space and grace. And one of my former people, uh, student services, um, supervisor, she said that to our team. Because when we first started, we were in a crisis. She say, hold up, everybody, let’s just give some space.

And grace. And I really embraced that philosophy of saying, you’re not going to be perfect. I’m not going to be perfect, but we’re just striving to do better. And as long as we can understand that we’re going to strive to get better. You don’t have to be perfect. That’s the other thing, [00:46:00] too. Right? As long as we know our intent and we’re really working hard.

To get there. I think we’ll be a little bit better off, but that adds to the social emotional. I have to be perfect. I’ve had to have more psychologists talking to our 4.0 students over time because of the anxieties they have. Wait a minute. I just scored a 97 on that test. Oh my goodness. I didn’t get a hundred, hold up, slow down.

You know, that wasn’t all that bad, you know, and that’s not low expectations. But it’s just saying, relax, you know, and we all going to have to do that, help one another, uh, do that. And I think we’ll be better off the anxiety’s a real amongst all of us right now, dr. Ladson billings, how can uncertainty and, you know, disruption to routine affect kids’ learning, um, and development.

Um, so I think what’s important for us to understand is even though this panel is about COVID-19, we are in the midst of four readily [00:47:00] identifiable pandemics. We do have COVID-19 it’s the reason why, you know, people are distancing, why I’m here and not in the studio with you. We understand that one, but we’re also in a pandemic of anti-black racism that that’s everywhere.

I mean, was George Floyd and Arbery, um, C’mon Arbery and Brianna Taylor, and then lo and behold, Jacob Blake, I mean, right down the road and Kenosha. So that’s all around too, but we also are facing a terrible economic situation. We haven’t talked much about it, but the truth of the matter is that, um, even though the governor has, you know, had a landlord stay the requirement for people to pay their rent, those rents are going to come due.

And people don’t have jobs or they’ve had to cut hours. So rents and mortgages and all those things will come down, come, come due. And then the fourth one, although we think of [00:48:00] ourselves as kind of safe from it in the upper middle is the coming climate catastrophe. You know, I’m a grandmother who all of her grandchildren are on the West coast, so they can’t even go outside because the air is so bad.

So those fires raging in California, or if you live in that, um, in the, in the Gulf coast area, uh, we are now through all of the regular alphabet with storms and now into the Greek alphabet, Louisiana is bracing for, uh, the Delta, right? So all of these things are happening. So uncertainty is not just around COVID-19 it’s around living in this world right now.

So one of the things that I think will help us with the uncertainty is that as teachers, we have to begin to build our pedagogical repertoires, COVID-19, it’s forced you to do it. To some extent you can’t just do the same old [00:49:00] stuff. Uh, I recall as a professor at UWA because, you know, unlike, um, K-12 school and we don’t get a room.

You know, you don’t have a room. That’s your room. You have your office, what you teach, wherever they assign you, wherever their space. And I, I made a decision that whatever space I’m in, I’m going to take advantage of whatever, whatever resources are there. So my last. Couple of rooms were connected to our IMC, which meant I had all of this technology.

I had smart boards, I had docu cams. I had, uh, all kinds of listening and I decided to start doing some things differently. I began to run a, um, uh, a class hashtag. A Twitter feed. And what did I find out that many of my international students absolutely loved because they don’t like raising their hands and speaking out because that’s not how they came into education in their countries, but they can pull out their [00:50:00] devices and tweet about what we’re doing.

I would not have thought about that without that resource there in front of me. So I think the, again, you know, I want to look at the opportunity. So the opportunities are for us to build, um, better, um, pedagogical repertoires to learn, to teach together. That’s another thing that I think we, we, we give lip service to team teaching, but I think now we do have to work together.

Uh, and that as that Jenkins had said earlier, the whole notion of the community and the school and the school and the community, that, that, that gives us another opportunity. Um, Mary Lee talked about a community garden. Um, we could be doing so many more things, uh, and not letting the assessment tail wag the dog here that.

Uh, I just wanna, I just don’t want us to lose this opportunity to miss it because it really is, uh, an [00:51:00] opportunity. Thank you so much, dr. Jenkins, dr. Ladson billings just spoke a lot about teacher development and growth and learning right now. What are you doing as an administrator to learn and grow through this period of time?
JFK said that leadership and learning are indispensable. You can’t be a leader without wanting to continue to grow. And I am listening a whole lot more to everyone. Uh, and what I’m hearing from the children, uh, when I go out in the community, when I’m going and tapping into the schools, when I’m meeting yesterday with the principal groups and what, uh, when I’m listening to the parents.

Okay. When I say I’m in my first year of my new education, As a leader, this is my first year. And it’s exciting. It’s given, it’s rejuvenated me in a way as a learner, you know, reading, uh, [00:52:00] any and everything, because there’s not a blueprint for this where we are now. So as I walked through it and looking at the models, not of what has been, but what could be, I think what dr.

Less ability to say, this is an opportunity. I am in that mode of saying this is the learning should be occurring for myself, trying to educate also working in collaboration with our board, working with the staff and yesterday the principals, we had a great time conversations and we’re going to flip our model central office, bringing in all the experts central office, come in and leave.

No, no, no, no, no. Principals will lead the PD. They were going to come up with the topics and working in concert with the staff. And, um, I met with some amazing principals. Yes,
we have so much talent in MMS. D I just, I mean, I’ve been in a lot of places and I knew that when I left and it’s still [00:53:00] here. So that’s what I say as a, as a new leader, you know, I am in a learning mode. And I think I’ve been rejuvenated by this COVID-19, but it’s racial the whole injustice piece. So I think that’s what, from my level and lens, we have to do throw out what we were before this and start a new.

Yeah, in sort of to build on that. Are there any specific curricular or content changes that you see happening as a result of everything that’s going on right now? Mary Lee? I mean, do you plan to build any of what’s been going on in the world into your content going forward? We are, that’s a really amazing part.

Um, so the school that, uh, I work at, um, we’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now of looking at, um, how do we bring what students are already passionate about? How do we bring what is already, um, in [00:54:00] both popular culture, in the news in science and bring it into our focus. So right now our students are split into two cohorts.

One cohort is working on a, um, the theme is growing. You’re growing our future. So looking at food, sustainability, planetary health, looking at philosophy, how does philosophy impact how we, we, um, interact with the world poetry? So how can poetry and. Within that hip hop and language be impactful for communicating your ideas.

So that’s our one strand. And so we have a group of teachers who are then working with our half of our students for this entire first term interspersing, all of those ideas I’m in the coming of age. So thinking about what does it look like to come of age? Both in this time and in times, All over the world.

Right. [00:55:00] So thinking about it from a global perspective and right here in our community, so what are we looking at? What are we doing? How do we look at statistics and use that to inform our, our decisions that we’re making? How do we use literature to have that windows and mirrors effect? Right. What do I see in literature that is similar to me?

What is literature that opens my eyes to different pieces? Um, so. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been doing this for many years now. And I think we are now we have an opportunity to say, how can we use what is happening in our world right now? If you take any of the pandemics that dr. Ladson billings talked about, you could develop curriculum for years on those topics alone.

And. We have an opportunity to do that. We have the materials, we have the ideas out there, but it’s going to take a massive shift. It’s a massive shift to shift away [00:56:00] from what we’ve been doing to what we can do. And I think this might be the time and yes, it’s going to be hard. It’s already hard. So what can, what are those steps that we can start taking as we look at that?

Dr. Ladson billings, how important do you think it is for teachers to do that sort of curricular adjustment, uh, for their students? Um, I think it’s imperative, you know, it’s interesting some years ago, um, psychologist, how a gardener who most people know from multiple intelligences, Howard said, you know, We keep talking about what schools need to do or what, you know, how, how to get better.

He said the truth of the matter is if you look around the world, there are different places in the world that are X.
[00:57:00] We keep talking about what schools need to do or what w you know, how, how to get better. He said the truth of the matter there is, if you look around the world, there are different places in the world that are expert at different aspects of it. He said, if you want, wanted to have a child have a perfect education, you put them in preschool, Italy at Reggio Emilia.

You put them in elementary school in Finland. You then put them in high school in Germany, and then you send them to college in United States. That indeed that’s the best system seemed to be. So we have this opportunity to look or what what’s going on at Reggio Emilia, how can our preschools be less sort of structured and focused and more whole child oriented what’s going on in Finland?

Why are the fins doing so well in elementary school? Uh, How much [00:58:00] latitude do their teachers have to make curricular decisions what’s going on in Germany, uh, with high school? Well, one of the things I know for sure is that German high school offers a promise. If you stick through this, this is what we’re promising you at the end.

So they’ve sat down with industry and ha and postsecondary ed and said, Buhr people come through the program. We guarantee them a route to one of these. They want to go work in the Mercedes Benz plant. They can do that, but if they want to go to belong, yeah. Uh, to study, they can do that. And then of course our colleges are the cream of the crop.

Everybody comes here. Everybody wants to go to a college and university in the U S we have to find a way to synthesize all of this great information and great opportunities, because we were one of the best resource countries, nations the world’s ever seen. And I don’t actually think it’s about quote money.
I think it is about our [00:59:00] political will. It is about our political, do we want to invest in just the fence or do we want to invest in our people? Thank you so much, dr. Jenkin, you spoke a little earlier about sort of some conversation about achievement gaps, uh, nationally, and that’s something that’s been certainly a big part of the conversation over the past seven months is the potential for widening achievement gaps through this time.

Uh, is that a concern here and how can you stop that from happening? Well, I think achievement gap is one thing, but the opportunity gap and based upon just even what you just heard. They were talking opportunities, right? And the higher, more wealthy families have opportunities before school, after schools on the weekend spoken language at home is so many opportunities.

And when I said there’s a resource with fundamental flaw, how we resource, this [01:00:00] is what I mean, it’s bigger than just money to these opportunities we can create, uh, for our children. And I’m still on the narratives. We have to shift the narratives. I said this when I was speaking at, um, the editorial board for the state journal, I think the media has a lot to do with shifting this narrative.
And when I mentioned Shetty’s work earlier or some other individuals who are economists or, and we should be shooting, what were you doing? The other side?

…. the remaining audio is indecipherable.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees). Run for office. Spring 2021 elections: Dane county executive.

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

What is the place for African Americans in the ‘new’ Madison?

Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County, Inc.:

In the midst of these challenges, the Madison Metropolitan School District heard its superintendent-designee, Matthew Gutiérrez, was rescinding his acceptance of the position to remain as superintendent of the Seguin, Texas school district. This lack of a permanent superintendent can have an incredibly negative impact on African American students. The initiative known as “Black Excellence” began under the leadership of former superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Cheatham has been gone for almost a year. Nothing about the current leadership suggests that Black Excellence is a district priority. African American children in Wisconsin experience the widest achievement disparities in the nation in reading and mathematics. Our eighth graders are performing 47 points below their White counterparts in mathematics. Our fourth graders are performing 39 points below their White counterparts in reading. Where is the collective outrage over these disparities? Who on the current school board is demanding improvement?

The racial problems of MMSD run long and deep: Issues of achievement, disproportionate assignment to special education, lack of access to honors and advanced placement classes, disproportionate levels of suspensions and expulsions, and disproportionate graduation rates (59% Black vs. 88% White). In the midst of this there is an inverse relationship between the percentage of teachers of color and that of students. Eighty-eight percent of the teachers are White in a district with a student population that is 43% White. And, we have had repeated instances of White teachers using racial epithets and other disrespect toward Black students and their parents (e.g. a White teacher mistakenly sent a text to a Black parent about how the parent and her child were so dumb).

African Americans in Madison have been more than patient when it comes to improving their status — education, employment, housing, and every other measure of health and well-being. There have been over 40 years of reports, task forces and initiatives. Post-pandemic Madison will be a “new” Madison. We have learned a lot in the midst of crisis. We know that far too many of our community members are one paycheck away from poverty — loss of housing, food, health care, childcare, schooling, etc. What is the place for African Americans in this new Madison?

Related, Madison K-12 experiments:

English 10

Small Learning Communities

Reading Recovery

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

The Unexamined Model Is Not Worth Trusting (We know best…)

Chris von Csefalvay:

In early March, British leaders planned to take a laissez-faire approach to the spread of the coronavirus. Officials would pursue “herd immunity,” allowing as many people in non-vulnerable categories to catch the virus in the hope that eventually it would stop spreading. But on March 16, a report from the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team, led by noted epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, shocked the Cabinet of the United Kingdom into a complete reversal of its plans. Report 9, titled “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand,” used computational models to predict that, absent social distancing and other mitigation measures, Britain would suffer 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Even with mitigation measures in place, the report said, the epidemic “would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over.” The conclusions so alarmed Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he imposed a national quarantine.

Subsequent publication of the details of the computer model that the Imperial College team used to reach its conclusions raised eyebrows among epidemiologists and specialists in computational biology and presented some uncomfortable questions about model-driven decision-making. The Imperial College model itself appeared solid. As a spatial model, it divides the area of the U.K. into small cells, then simulates various processes of transmission, incubation, and recovery over each cell. It factors in a good deal of randomness. The model is typically run tens of thousands of times, and results are averaged—a technique commonly referred to as an ensemble model.

In a tweet sent in late March, Ferguson—then still one of the leading voices within the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), tasked with handling the coronavirus crisis—stated that the model was implemented in “thousands of lines of undocumented” code written in C, a widely used and high-performing computing language. He refused to publish the original source code, and Imperial College has refused a Freedom of Information Act request for the original source, alleging that the public interest is not sufficiently compelling.

As Ferguson himself admits, the code was written 13 years ago, to model an influenza pandemic. This raises multiple questions: other than Ferguson’s reputation, what did the British government have at its disposal to assess the model and its implementation? How was the model validated, and what safeguards were implemented to ensure that it was correctly applied? The recent release of an improved version of the source code does not paint a favorable picture. The code is a tangled mess of undocumented steps, with no discernible overall structure. Even experienced developers would have to make a serious effort to understand it.

I’m a virologist, and modelling complex processes is part of my day-to-day work. It’s not uncommon to see long and complex code for predicting the movement of an infection in a population, but tools exist to structure and document code properly. The Imperial College effort suggests an incumbency effect: with their outstanding reputations, the college and Ferguson possessed an authority based solely on their own authority. The code on which they based their predictions would not pass a cursory review by a Ph.D. committee in computational epidemiology.

Related, Madison K-12 experiments:

English 10

Small Learning Communities

Reading Recovery

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“The achievement rate has gotten worse. The failure rate of kids has gotten worse. We would keep thinking that we were solving the problem, the United Way and all of these organizations jump on it, but it doesn’t change a thing.”

Steven Elbow:

The problem, some say, is that disparities impact a population that has little political or economic clout. And white people, who control the levers of commerce and government, address only pieces of an interconnected web of issues that include child development, education, economics and criminal justice.

Brandi Grayson co-founded Young, Gifted and Black and now runs Urban Triage, an organization that provides educational support, teaches parenting skills and promotes wellness to help black families become self-sufficient.

She said elimination of racial disparities would require a seismic shift in attitude throughout society, which would take years, maybe generations. In the meantime, she said, government has to enact policies that enforce equitable treatment of people in housing, health care, education, employment and criminal justice.

“In Dane County there have been no policy changes,” she said. “Just a lot of talk, a lot of meetings, a lot of conversation and a lot of money given to organizations that do community engagement or collect data. What’s the point of that investment if we already know what it is?”

She said initiatives consistently fail because society at large hasn’t called out the root cause of the disparities: racism.

If white people felt that the problem was worth solving, she said, they’d do something about it. For example, blacks are way more likely to experience infant mortality, low birth weight, early death, hypertension and a raft of other health conditions, much of that due to lack of access to health care.

David Blaska:

What’s Madison’s answer?

Teaching responsibility instead of victimhood? Demanding performance, not excuses? 

ARE YOU KIDDING? !!! This is Madison, where the answers are: More money, more baffling programs, more guilt, rinse and repeat. The Capital Times reports:

County officials and local nonprofits are hoping to reverse the trend with a new program that provides intensive mentoring for youthful offenders, which showed promise during a pilot program last year.

At $250,000 from the United Way and $100,000 from the county, the program would serve up to 49 kids — that’s $7,000 a kid for those who didn’t take math. As for the Policy Werkes, we’re siding with a neighbor who ventured, on social media:

If it isn’t stray bullets it is out-of-control 4,000-pound missiles. Next time you vote, consider how many chances a particular judge tends to give juveniles before applying the maximum extent of the law or creatively applies a deterrent.

2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”. 

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close. 

2006: “They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”

2009: An emphasis on adult employment.

2013: What will be different, this time?

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:

Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”

Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers. 

Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Departing Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham WORT FM Interview

mp3 audio – Machine Transcript follows [Better transcript, via a kind reader PDF]:

I’m Carousel Baird and we have a fabulous and exciting show lined up today. Such a fabulous guy sitting right across from me right here in the studio. Is Madison metropolitan school district current superintendent? She still here in charge of all the fabulous thing it is. Dr. Jennifer Cheatham.

Hello, Jen. Hey Carousel. Hey everybody. It’s good to be here. Wonderful to have you and I do want to just take it off. You know, you’re leaving at the end of the summer moving on to other Adventures but to say first of all, thank you to your accessibility. We’ve had a lot of conversations. We have you and many of your leaders. They aren’t always easy going conversation there. I believe yeah. But they’re important conversations and your availability to answer questions and be on the show and come and have these conversations is really important to Madison. So thank you. Well, thank you for asking.

It’s been wonderful every time and I’m sure it’ll be wonderful again another great show. That’s right. We’re gonna make it happen. I don’t know I’ll burn down all the bridges really until nothing to lose. All right. Well, let’s sort of start with a I have very few statistics that I brought. Just a few. Okay. It’s a few there’s approximately 27,000 students career and MSD more than 50% or students of color including 18 percent that have self-identified as African-American 21 percent that have identified as lad necks. 32 elementary schools 12 middle schools six high schools. There you go. Those are the stat.

It’s big for Dane County, but it’s not it’s not huge and compared to other big cities. Does that make it more manageable? I can work with those six years ago when you showed up and not that I want to be the superintendent of Madison. Yeah, it felt like a world that you could play a role in no doubt. No doubt. I think you know this Carousel, but I worked in San Diego before coming to Madison where there are 200 schools. Then Chicago we’re at that time there were about 600 schools. And so coming to Madison. It did seem doable to the challenges seemed hard even from the outside, but they seem doable but I always imagined. Wow, I could have all 50 principles in a room together. Right right, and we can just talk real talk and that’s been true. I mean, it’s been wonderful. That way yeah big challenges but doable because of the size and the community that we had 11, so.

First of all, congratulations on your new position you’re moving off to Harvard University that I mean, I think that bodes well for us for that leader is from Madison move on to Harvard University big. So thanks for representing Madison and at Harvard. That’s that’s excellent. No doubt.

I think sometimes when we’re. In our own communities, we lose perspective on them and as much as we have challenges, we have tremendous strength and school districts outside. Of Madison nationally have looked to us right have come to us for guidance and advice for Lessons Learned some of them learn the hard way, right but important lessons that we’ve gleaned.

So I want people to know that not only have we made progress here within our community, but we’ve been already Madison’s been influencing the field of Education Beyond Madison. Is that right when we’re in it? Are we see are the challenges right? Because like okay, here’s another problem. Let’s work on that. Here’s another and you know, that’s the daily job of solving problems, but understand that it is it because we’re at least a community that is willing. To address the challenges instead of trying to ignore them. I think so. I think that’s a part of it. I had a in still have a long time Mentor named Karl Cohen. He was the superintendent in Long Beach many years ago, and I remember my early days working with Carl he called. This work. He describes it as a hard slog right the hard slog of school Improvement, right? It’s not you don’t get to spike the football much right? There’s always another challenge to address right and it’s ultimately about children, right? So it’s like schools and school districts are at the center have Humanity right in all the challenges that come with. With being alive right exist in a school in a classroom in a school district.

So yeah, it’s challenging work. But I to your point, I think that Madison has as a community right of Educators, but of people have been able I think to talk about hard issues together. I’d love to talk to you about that more actually. Okay, I think it’s a it’s a it’s a major asset that we don’t talk about enough our ability to be in dialogue with one another even if we disagree even if we don’t go the route that you know change makers want to go the fact that we’re willing to have those conversations that I do every show on the table. I do I think that that’s a really valid. Let’s talk about.

So you’ve been here for six plus years was talking about the changes that you’ve seen in that six plus years. I think there have been a lot of changes. Okay, and I I mean, of course everyone’s going to think that. But they’re for the better, but I would say it was for the better. I think most of they have been for the better when I started six plus years ago the general sentiment. It was a difficult time in Madison. By the way, the contacts Act 10 had just happened. So the education Community was feeling incredibly demoralizing of astride devastated. I mean, you don’t get over if those feelings actually, I think they’re hard to get over. Yes. What else was happening at that time the right as I was starting the race to equity report was released. So everyone was kind of grappling what the reality is of the disparities between black and white people in our community putting numbers to the communities of color new these challenges all along and no longer could the white communities of Madison deny them when the numbers were boldly in their face, right?

So think about that though. So here we have teachers staff. Educators feeling demoralized because of actin and simultaneously being faced with the reality of these disparities, right? That’s really challenging. What else was happening at that time? Oh and the Urban League proposal for the charter school, right had just been denied why that was a tough. That was a tough moment in Madison, right? It was a tough moment was a very. Conversation tell me about it. It was intense. And so that was the context that I came into welcome. Yeah, right and I’m a parent Lee a very optimistic person. So I thought yeah we can do this. This is hard but. There’s an inflection point here, right? We can come together and find a better way of doing this and I felt like the all the ingredients existed in Madison to do so, so it’s interesting.

I given all that context what came up in those first.

Few months when I was on the job was a desire for just Direction and coherence right? There. Was this feeling that the district at that point in time, which is a point of I think some chaos, right? There’s another chaotic period of. Not knowing what direction to go in knowing that we were facing challenges but not knowing how to move forward everyone just needed and wanted desperately some direction, right and some coherence around the strategies that were being put into play. So I took that and ran with it and I think over these last five or six years we’ve accomplished that meaning we have real Direction. I still get regularly criticized for doing too much. Lunch, right that’s different from not having Direction. It’s hard to do when there’s so many things to do to have I’m sure I desire to fix not everything at once and yet you have to move all the balls forward a little bit at a time. I think that’s true. So my challenge has always been well. Okay, we are going to have to do a lot because there’s urgency right and there are children who need us to make progress now. So I can’t narrow the focus too much. But at least I can make sure that what we’re doing is coherent right that it all holds together and is leading us in a Direction that’s addressing the real problems that we face not the fake problems.

But the real ones and again, I think we’ve accomplished that I really wanted for us to adopt some more discipline ways of working. I wanted us out of the gate to invest in school leadership. Team School Improvement planning data use I just wanted us to be a more discipline organization sense of structure. God have structured of systems and structures and shared leadership structures. That would help the people who work most closely with children. To be empowered to make the best possible decisions. I remember I remember that. Yeah, I remember when you moved here. Yeah. I have a 7th grader so high had just gotten to know. Ms. And Madison Public Schools, right? I was an observer on some level before before you became our superintendent and I and I remember having a conversation with Marj Passman is a mentor and good friend of mine who was a mentor member of the Madison School Board.

Yeah, but I’m talking about how my daughter’s first grade class wasn’t learning the same thing. Add another first grade class across town in still in Madison because that wasn’t the structure that we had and that on some level. There was a lot of teacher freedom, but on another level kids you you couldn’t switch schools and expect to be able to have the same curriculum and you would either be Advanced or behind depending on where you go. Just because you move departments across the city.

Well, that’s an excellent point. It’s not like that anymore. No, and so in addition to creating more discipline in the ways we make decisions and how we measure success and learn from. Our failures and make improvement over time. We insisted on more instructional coherence. So let’s get clear on what we think great teaching looks like in the classroom. Let’s get clear on.

The standards right that we have to teach especially in literacy and Mathematics that has been the major Focus for these past five six years and and we insisted on on teachers not working in isolation, but working in teams, right? So there was a big investment and not just. As a learning community understand how we teach. But knowing a little bit more about what we all need to teach and how we how we need to work together as teams to continually reflect on the effectiveness of our practice. So teachers coming together on a regular basis to talk about what we taught last week. What do we learn from it? Which kids are getting it who isn’t what does that mean for what we’re going to do next week, right? And that sounds simple but it is just essential. I mean that is the core of what. All districts do and I could see if I feel like every time you start a new initiative or change things up. Not you specifically but everyone in general. Yeah, you almost have to go all in okay. This is what we’re doing. And then once you master it, you can pull back out so I could see a lot of challenges and difficulties of teachers that were fabulous teachers. Oh, yeah that. More of course. They taught our kids, of course, they were fabulous qualified teachers, but they weren’t as interested in making sure that their first grader was doing the same as another first grader was doing they had love and nurturing and. They wanted to inspire this these students to love education and not that they have to be I can’t think of the right word come combative with each other but there were definitely teachers that thrived because of the free form that we allowed and here you are now adding adding a structure to it.

Where do you think we are in the process? Do you think there’s a point where we can say? Okay, you’ve mastered the structured and now we can pull back out.

Yeah. Oh my God, that’s such a good question. I think that both the discipline ways of working that I described first. And this work that we’ve done around instructional coherence was. For a while and for some felt really constraining write your point and it would for great principals who felt like they had a leadership structure that was working or you know, like they were principals who were feeling those constraints to and certainly teachers and I’ve talked with enough teachers to know for a fact that that is absolutely true, but I think. Foot I buy what I’ve always believed was that it was a step in the process, right? Which is I think is your point but that’s not the end goal. The end goal is something more important the end goal for those discipline ways of working at the school and District level, especially at the school level related to sit planning. We’re so that at this stage we could even further Empower schools right to make their own decisions because now sit planning, I don’t know.

I’m so. Sorry something and I will Improvement planning which is kind of disciplined way of working. We’ve adopted at the school level for decision making okay and school-level focus areas. We want now that those disciplined ways of working are pretty embedded. Like they’re part of our culture and our way of working. We can actually further Empower schools to do what they think is right for their school Community right and in collaboration with. Our students their staff their their families. We the new strategic framework kind of lays out a strategy for further empowerment of schools. Same thing for the classroom experience. Now that we have more coherence right instructionally as a system. I do think that now we’re at the stage where what we can and should be thinking about is how to ensure that those the teachers have the freedom they need. To ensure that those are not just nurturing environments that build community which is essential but that there’s deep and Rich learning happening in the classroom. Right? It’s not standards alignment isn’t enough. It’s got to be instruction that’s meaningful to the children who are in the classroom, right? It’s got to be content where students can see. Themselves represented in the curriculum I so that they can understand the world around them and interrogate it. Like I just think that we’re at poised to bring instruction to another level and Madison without losing the coherence that we’ve created right we can Empower schools to make decisions for their communities without losing those discipline ways of working that we think are essential this essay about Madison when you inherited it that it really. Didn’t have this structure.

It really was a city that you know again, I’ve only been here for I’ve been here for how long have I been here at around 20 years now. I don’t know some so I certainly don’t know the history of this of the city, but I know the gentleman before you were white men that perhaps didn’t mind that. School a was completely different than school be they didn’t think about the academics because that wasn’t they weren’t I don’t I don’t want to slam these gentlemen at all, but for some reason that wasn’t Madison’s priority, I was sort of surprising. There’s a whole lot to unpack there as their Carousel. But so I don’t know. I know all I know is what I’ve experienced and. Not just me, but the people who have led in Madison the teacher leaders who are on their school based leadership teams, the principles the senior team of Madison. We are hardcore Educators right who have put the educational experience at the center right that the theory that we have adopted for change has been. Guest on improving the experience that students have. With their teachers around content that’s worth learning, right that is that is the hard slog of school Improvement, right?

Yeah, we’re talking with dr. Jennifer Cheatham superintendent of Madison Public Schools. We’d love your questions or comments, please join the conversation the phone call. The phone number is area code 6082562001. You can also send us a tweet at wort talk or a message on our Facebook page. Our page is a public Affair 89.9 FM Madison.

So Jen. Let’s talk about race. Okay, and it seems the intersect with everything that we do big picture is I sir our president is racist. I think our I think our country is racist. It is Madison racist. Yeah. Yeah, I think every individual. I think I’m reason I live in Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin. I live in the United States.

I’m racist I am to I’m married to a black man and I’m a bi-racial son and I’m racist it is I’ve gotten myself into so much trouble for saying those words Carousel. Really? Yeah, I think you know, it’s funny. I’ve I love saying those words, but that’s a conversation. We were talking about at the beginning. Can we at least. Are there less admit it right? I think I out of all of the challenges that I’ve experienced in Madison being able to lead. For racial Equity to try to be an increasingly anti-racist leader, which means doing my own work, right? It means doing my own inside-out work simultaneously alongside everyone else who’s an educator Madison has that has been the most challenging aspect of this work and the most fulfilling in some ways right the most important the most powerful and the most. Anjing. Yeah. That’s sort of break break it down in so many pieces. Does this fit in with the conversation about the behavior education plan. It does because of The Bravery you say suspend and expel students of color at a tremendously High rate. I didn’t I didn’t pull up the numbers from six years ago. I’m happy I didn’t because I don’t we don’t need the numbers in front of us for you and I. To admit the things that we’ve already admitted and then Along Came the behavior education plan. That was really a challenging new way to look at things. Yeah. Yeah, I think let me let me I want to zoom out before we Zoom back into this because I do think it’s a great example of this work in action. I think in my first five years. We certainly were leading for racial equity and the main approach we were taking was to let me think a couple things. We were we were certainly talking a lot about. What it means for all of us to be culturally responsive Educators, right? How do we build relationships with students of color especially in a district where most of us most educators are white and white females like me and at the central office of the district level. We were very interested in both investing resources and tackling the. Institutional barriers that stood in the way of success for students of color and their families, right? So we’ve been all along, you know working on addressing those systems and structures, you know, we rewrote our strategic framework.

A couple years ago now launched it a year ago and the fall and tried. We thought we were ready and I think we were to take it a whole to a whole nother level and be even more explicit in that commitment. Right? We use the word anti-racism right that we are as Educators obligated to be actively anti-racist. You intentionally had a piece that talked about black Excellence. Yeah. We are focusing on our black. It’s to rise them up. And even though I think there has been criticism from the community of black Excellence. Let’s see it. But that’s the whole point. You’re at least you’re putting it out there. If you never put it out there. I can’t hold herself becoming an old accountable. That’s hey and he can’t measure. Your failure is it’s so the community that wants to tell us were failing. At least we’re saying you’re eight.

We said black excellence and we’re not meeting it at all.

No doubt and both of these simple things are different but half have to happen simultaneously, right? You have to lead for black Excellence, which is I mean, what what what is implied? I hope in those words is that. That black students are already excellent, right and that it is our job to yeah to cultivate that excellence and that we have an obligation simultaneously while we’re cultivating black Excellence to recognize and dismantle. Racism in all of its forms and we’re Educators who were held to a higher standard. This is a really big deal. I think for me the that work that we launched last year. What I wish I would have done better was to kind of preview for everybody what it might feel like. Right that we would feel excited and motivated by the commitment. And then when we started actually doing more of the work and holding ourselves accountable for it every time not just sometimes. That it would create a feeling of like not knowing of disequilibrium. I’m not sure being sure about your next step what I think it’s produced a lot in Madison right now is this feeling of. Of who’s the guy on the good side and who’s on the bad side? Right like yeah, which is really lines are very drawn the very drawn it’s fine because it is a step in the process. We just can’t stay there. Right? Like what we need to do as a community is a okay. Hi, this is this is natural feeling right when you’re faced with our own right racism the racism of the institution that we work for right? Like I have this ambivalent relationship with any school district.

I love it because I’m rooting for it and I hate it because it was. Kind of born out of out of racist ideal too many it right and that’s the rest the whole concept of institutional process what it is, you’re fulfilling your actual intentional institutional design, right which leads to racism. So it is natural to go through this feeling of disequilibrium to worry that you’re not on the good side, right and. And if we stay there things we may actually we will suffer as a result. We have to pull together and how that dialogue that we were talking about earlier in the show. Like we have to not let people leave the table but bring them back in and loving and compassionate ways. I actually think that Madison and the school district. Which is a kind of at the center of Madison will be stronger as a result of this dialogue, right? We’re going to get through it and we are going to be better the hope of the future. Yeah. I have no question about it because there is a movement underway in Madison not just in the school district. I mean our educators are phenomenal people who get it in our working heart to do this Inside Out work. And make our institution a better Institution for every child. I have no doubt but we have to stop pitting ourselves against one another right we have to stop looking for someone to blame and just accept that this is our reality right? It’s not just ours is that affects it? Yeah, and and where the people who are in these seats now right where the. Were the people do or learn leaders leaders do it?

Yeah, we have a question that came in Jen had a question on Facebook. Thank you Jenn for contributing to the conversation and using Facebook. Excellent. It does get related over to me. Ye success technology. She wanted to ask you dr. Cheatham to talk about what carrot parents can do. I almost had carrots. I guess I don’t know why maybe I’m hungry. Okay start over Jen wants to know what parents can do to. Push the school’s forward and to work on race and Equity issues. Oh, excellent. And I also I’m going to put my own little spin on me before of I think they’re different conversations versus white parents parents of color. I know that there’s so much intentional effort and we can talk about the successes there of getting families and communities involved. But we also live in a time where when people say where are the parents which I hear all the time. My answer is I don’t know working three jobs trying to knock it evicted. Taking the bus that doesn’t actually get them to where they’re going. They are just hoping that their kid is safe at school. They don’t have time to meet with the teacher because they don’t have enough time and money. To fight being evicted which is what they’re working on and then those are not I don’t think that’s anecdotal as a tenant rights attorney. I think those are very real lives of many many people. Absolutely. Sorry Jen. I co-opted your question there, but can you help us understand the complexity of wanting parents involved needing parents involved and also acknowledging that parents have. Overwhelming things of basic needs on their plate. Yeah, I parent partnership has been a steady Focus for us as well. I mean it was one of the major priorities in our initial strategic framework.

Shout out to Nichelle Nichols who’s been rocking it in that role. Yeah, one of the greatest thing Madison she is amazing and in our whole Focus there has been on. Parents as partners right as full Partners in the educational process. We have always felt that parents don’t need to be present in the traditional ways, which is what you are kind of getting at a minute ago Carousel to be our partners, but they need great communication. They need to know what’s happening with their child at school so that they can play a part in the ways that they that are possible for them. Meaning sometimes the most important thing a parent can do is just to check in with their kid right to talk about it to encourage them, right? You don’t have to come to the PTO or PTA meeting it on their math tests to say. Hey, how’s school going? Did you do feel safe and I’ll be there? How you challenged? I love you. I know you’re smart. Right? It’s right. Yeah, no question. Every parent of course does every that’s what every loving parent loving parent does absolutely they have a free five minutes at the end of the day, sometimes they don’t all kinds of ways to be partners with teachers and all the I’ve talked to a lot of parents over the years and I’ll tell you that relationship between the parent and the teacher is the one that’s most important to most parents, right? That’s a relationship. They want to have be really strong. I think to the Facebook question. Yes, what I’m reading into that is how beyond the typical parent partnership can parents be involved especially around this work on race and equity and I am and I would encourage. Especially the white parents and Madison to think very carefully about and deeply about this question. How do. White parents, especially parents of privilege unintentionally kind of hold up the systems and structures that need to be disassembled of every child is going to be successful the the wrong idea as a white parent and I live I’m a white parent in a predominantly white neighborhood in a predominantly white school that. We don’t have to talk about racism right don’t talk about it. We’re not racist. So we don’t talk about race, which is actually the wrong response when we live in a racist world, right? Yeah, I mean students need to talk about it, right they need to make sense out of this world around them, especially if they’re going to make it a better place. I think that’s essential but I think I’ve seen some leaders especially PTO and PTA leaders really lead this conversation while over.

Last couple of years I’ve seen PTO and PTA leaders introducing book clubs to read. I like books like Robyn D’Angelo is white fragility right among parents to better understand why they’re having some of the responses that they’re having to our efforts to address racial Equity had on. I mean, I would encourage. Parents be thinking about that. What inside out work do they need to do right? It’s not about what we do in the big ways necessarily the big initiatives. It’s what we do in the small ways our one-on-one conversations with our fellow parents, right how we challenge one another. I think that’s really important. And do you see those changes?

There’s so much to talk about we only had I known manage which is crazy. But do you see these changes? I do happening in Madison by the conversations of of and I think that’s the natural Progressive is to start with anger what we’re not racist. What are you talking about? My kid got a great education. I love Madison schools. Are you attacking Madison School? Yeah, we need to protect our schools, too. Sort of okay. Well, actually here’s a conversation. I just gave a here’s my tangent on this. I just gave a presentation on Criminal Justice Reform to Jewish Social Services and part of a tiny piece of my talk was about police in schools, uh-huh a tiny piece and it was just acknowledging. The school-to-prison pipeline and hey, here’s the percentage of African-American students that get tickets when their police are in our schools and all of a sudden people go. Oh, that’s why you’re mad about police and schools and that people in that room actually said that to me they were ready to say we don’t need police in schools, you know, but at least there was a moment of understanding that hadn’t trickled down to them of why would people only criminals are afraid of the police kind of thing. And I think that’s what you’re getting at. Is that do you see those conversations happening? I do I mean I again, I think there is a powerful.

An exciting movement underway in Madison that more and more people not just our Educators, but madisonians are are getting into this dialogue with one another right in the small moments and in the big ones and I think that bodes well for the future of Madison, we justwe you can’t step out of it. We can’t pity each other or people against one another even the police in schools issue. I mean, it’s such a good example care. Well, I think that bye. Criticizing and raising serious questions about the issue shouldn’t be misread as as being anti-police, but it always ends up sounding that way right and there might be people on that position that are anti-police but that’s not the core of what they’re saying and you and you use the excuse of anti-police to stop listening you what they’re saying. You got it. It’s a really. Easy way to shut down the conversation and what I want us all is to stay in it together, right? Let’s not shut down the conversation. Let’s figure out what is the real problem that we are trying to solve and if we can do that we’re going to be okay and you feel like we’re moving so back to Madison schools were what talk to us about some of the programs and the initiatives that you feel are moving us.

Especially there was a collar and then he got disconnected sorry about that Dan. He had a question about the achievement Gap and I don’t know the details of what his question was but moving forward with how do we raise, you know? Address the racial Equity that exists. Yeah. Well, I think that’s what this new strategic framework is all about. I’m very hopeful board I think is very supportive of continuing to move in this direction and I would hope would find a future leader who’s capable of leading this work. But but yeah, I think we’re poised for really really powerful things what needs to happen to end racial disparities in Madison schools. Oh gosh, I mean this not any one thing right? I mean I think the center of it if I had to pick one thing Carousel it would be to for everything that we do to be ultimately aimed at. Seeing each other’s Humanity it does that sound too fluffy. That’s what we need to do. Right everything. We do the way we. Organized schools right through the school Improvement planning process and our decisions about instructional design if we made all those decisions to make sure that you experience a school day and I deeply humane way right where your sauce seen as a human being that’s seeing the teacher as a full, you know, human beings seeing every student in their full Humanity every parent. I mean, it’s interesting right like what if that were the design principle for every. Fission we made moving forward. What does that look like? They’re I know that there’s conversations about schools have become too academic Focus sometimes.

Yeah, and I don’t know how you deal with this you get it from both directions. We’re not meeting. Our academic needs were not academic focused at all. And we’re to academic Focus can my kid please take a dance class and a Ceramics class and something that makes them feel like a beautiful person. I think that the. Energies, I’m going to make some assumptions about what the caller called about the strategies that have been put into play over the last 20 years to quote unquote close the achievement Gap that term drives me absolutely crazy, by the way.

Why because what we’re talking about is racism. We’re not talking about achievement Gap. Yeah. I don’t think it’s actually describing the actual problem that we’re trying to solve. But I think that the strategies that have been put into play which have been largely about. I being more prescriptive on academics how we teach literacy? How do we teach math about intervention? So giving double and triple doses of literacy and math if it’s a student is struggling. I think that those strategies I mean we need to teach literacy and math. Well, I mean don’t get me wrong. That’s what I wanted to see. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret me here, but the the intense focus on only that has actually I think set us backwards and not. Pushed us forward. I think that if we had and this is where the district is going now building on the coherence that we’ve created if districts were more focused on deep and Rich learning experiences for students if imagine young black students saw themselves in their curriculum right from day one if they were getting access to. Historically accurate depiction right of the world in which they live if they were. How do I say this if they were consistently seen as fully human? Riot too many black students in this country are not are dehumanized on a regular basis. I think we would see those results change much much faster.

So the next level of work in Madison is all about that empowering everyone in a school Community to create a holistic instructional experience investing in teachers as culturally responsive teachers who are actively anti-racist ensuring that The Learning Experience offers one that is deep and Rich right and relevant to the students who attend our schools. I mean that work is already underway in Madison and I feel like that is the key to transformation. So all of these things sound wonderful. I know they cost money.

Yeah, let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about that, Wisconsin the United States but Wisconsin award-winning, Wisconsin, we do not fund our Public Schools know and one of the. From my perspective from what I’ve seen as a parent and someone that cares about these issues from the behavioral education plan for example was that there weren’t enough support for teachers and in our schools because we don’t have enough money to hire. A dozen social workers in every school. I mean people always talk about let’s get it our knees. I want to have social workers sitting around doing nothing because we have we’ve hired so many of them. I mean I dream of that of a school just overflowing with abundance of people ready at any moment, but that is a complete fantasy that is not based in any reality of how we fund schools in Wisconsin.

Yeah. I agree entirely. I mean the scarcity model of it. I don’t know. I’ve been an educator for over 20 years and sometimes you’ve been living in scarcity and for me working and scarcity for so long. You forget what? What’s possible Right like you you might accept it as the me accepted as the norm. I know it’s terrible and we shouldn’t accept it as the norm. I I was thrilled when Tony Evers got elected. I will not I’m not shy about saying that. And I cares about public education. He sure does he gets it. I think the proposal that he put forward was really inspired and inspiring and not and not Fantasyland. I mean he was trying to lay out for all of us. A picture of what it actually looks like to fund education public education appropriately. I was happy to see that we got a little bit of bump in per-pupil aid for next year, which is great. It’s still not enough. No, the problem is is that right if my daughter’s don’t get things in their school. My daughters have piano lesson. My daughter has, you know dance classes among our neighbors daughter has.

My math tutor all of these things that if you can’t get it at school people with money can help supplement our are excellent schools that are starved to death. We can I can supplement it but if that cost thousands of dollars a year that which what I do, so ultimately the disparities get bigger that we get it right they get worse. I think that’s exactly right Carousel. I. I mean, I’m not giving up on what governor eavers is trying to accomplish and I don’t think anyone should we should be funding full day for K in the state of Wisconsin? I mean that is an absolute must we should be funding reimbursement for special ed services. That is an absolute must. Yeah, and we we should be fully funding services for English language Learners, which is not happening. Now. I mean the list goes on and on and on I’ll tell you we make we we do a lot with very little but yeah our kids and our teachers and our parents deserve much more. There’s no doubt about that. What do you what do you hope to see in the next superintendent? What is what is your you know, the team comes together. You don’t really give a saying I don’t the TV were part of got something in it.

You know, what do you think are? The school board should be looking at when they choose. Hopefully they have many qualified applicants to choose from but everyone brings their own unique strengths and weaknesses to the table. One of the strengths you think they should be looking for. Well, I mean this superintendent. We’ll be starting from a fairly strong Foundation. Right? I mean, they’re not going on say so yourself. Yeah, I mean, they’re not going to have to redo their HR systems the budget despite the challenges we just described is. This salad we have got is a lot to work from there. So I’m part of what I just I hope is that they’re looking for someone who can lead this kind of next level of work, right? And that’s got to be someone who has a. Fairly robust vision and deep understanding of the kind of transformational change that we’re trying to make now and we’re trying to make changes in instructional design that are.

That are truly transformed of the Community Schools model, right that is a different way of doing school Pathways at the high school level that’s a different way of doing school. There’s pushback and all of them. Yeah. I’m scared of Pathways and it’s gonna be amazing. Good good. I’m scared of what West High School looks like when my kids get their will because it is a different instructor design, right? I mean, it’s weird. This is a longer conversation, but when you’re trying to change. The way schooling looks and feels for students so that they so that they’re actually thriving in school and truly prepared for post-secondary and I would hope that we would get a leader who can lead that transformational effort. I do think the district and the school board should be looking for someone who can continue to keep racial Equity at the center. I think there are many enough education leaders and superintendents who cannot just talk that talk but but walk it so I’m hopeful that they’ll look for for somebody who can continue that work as well.

Yeah, and I think the last thing I would say is there are a lot of leaders out there who. Don’t understand teaching. This is maybe what you were getting to and you talked about my predecessors a little bit but there but I would hope that they’re looking for someone who has really strong instructional leadership skills. Right who really has a mission to feels like to be in the last past. I think it’s really important. I had always wished that I could have taken a week every year and gotten back into a classroom and co-taught with a teacher. I was never able to quite pull it off. I hope that the next superintendent right to say really grounded for my work that teachers do what is happening. That’s right. That’s right.

And do you think. I know the school board has talked about for referendum, ‘s do you think those are things that we should be moving forward both. I know there’s conversation about building referendums and operational referendum. They’ve been supported in Madison. I’m hopeful I would hope that our school district if they think that’s the right thing to do would go for it. I would hope so. I mean, I we’ve been working on that long range facilities plan for years and we didn’t even talk about some of the other things that we’ve done is we’ve made some facilities improvements already. But but the plan that is shaping up on facilities, which would lead with the for comprehensive high schools the Alternative High School Capital High and address. South Madison some major gaps in learning at the elementary level. I think the package up will Shape Up is going to be powerful. Yeah, and I both the school board and the new superintendent I think needs to leave that work forward, you know, the buildings that we have our old 50 years on average. We need to take good care of them and our students deserve to learn in you know, in spaces that reflect our r value of them that are inspiring. Yeah, that’s about deep learning to. Wonderful to have you want to wish you great success as you move on to your next Adventures, but you’re you’re still here for a couple more weeks.

Oh, yeah Bennett you have I’m thrilled them transition to transition to Jane Bell more as the interim as you know, and will she serve. The goal of the setup is she’ll serve for the duration of the next school year. Yeah. Yeah, uh-huh. That’s right. And she starts August first. She was the interim when I started. So transition with her in those first months with this job she sure is and it’s been a pleasure to transition with her. I think the district will be good and very good hands with Jay next year. Thanks Carousel. Well, that’s that’s good. Maybe well, I’ll put a bug in Jane’s ear and get her on the show to talk about. I’ve been the challenges of being a leader that isn’t a permanent leader. That’s a whole new world of it, but. When do you you head off to Boston? You still have a bit a couple more weeks other anything left that you’re really focusing on that you that you hope to work on in the next few weeks. Well the next couple of weeks. I’m getting the senior team with Jane set for next year. We want to make sure that the group is ready to rock and roll. The big kickoff of the Year happens in the second week of August meaning there are big Leadership Institute, which is really the signal but the school year is starting welcoming back teachers and starting with the administrators and the leadership teams which includes teachers and then a couple weeks later all the teachers. So we’re working on making sure that that welcome back plan is strong that the team is ready to rock and roll. And they will be it said there’s a strong team here in Madison.

I’m leaving but the team that is here both the principles of leadership teams at the school level and at the district level is a very I don’t know. I mean, they’re an impressive group to say the least. So Madison’s in good hands wonderful. Well again, thank you so much. Dr. Jennifer Cheatham Jen Cheatham Madison superintendent for. Six plus years. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for facing the challenges and. And the criticism and the successes and all of that and we wish you great success in Boston things Carousel. Thanks everyone for listening today exciting news. I’m actually filling in for Ali show tomorrow. So you’re going to hear me go get you to my fabulous voice. It’s coming back tomorrow, but thank you to Tim for engineering Michelle for producing. I think Anita and Joe have been working on the phones. Thanks everyone for your great work. Have a great day. Bye.

2013: What will be different, this time? The Jennifer Cheatham Madison experience – 2019.

Madison has long spent far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 school districts ($18.5 to 20K/student, depending on the District documents). Yet, we have long tolerated disastrous reading results.