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March 29, 2006


A letter to the editor

Dear Editor: We are dismayed that two of the candidates running for the Madison School Board, Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole, would work toward reversing access for students by promoting ability-grouping and tracking. In fact, Cole called the district's efforts to provide more heterogeneous classes that all students could access "worrisome."

Consider these points:

• The research has clearly shown that ability-grouping and tracking lead to unequal educational opportunities for students, particularly students of color, poor students and students with disabilities.

• Madison schools are regularly studied and visited by other urban districts looking for successful ways to increase inclusion.

• Only nine-tenths of 1 percent of MMSD's African-American students are taking advanced placement classes, while more than 30 percent receive special education support.

• The achievement gap between white, middle-income students and all other students in the district is just starting to show improvement.

This is an issue of civil rights and full access for traditionally marginalized groups. Mathiak, Cole and their supporters can point to no hard data showing that including all students in classes with appropriate supports, services and differentiated curriculum harms the highest echelon. At most, they claim that some high-achieving students may be "bored." Hardly a concern when the dropout rates, AP course access, and postgraduate outcomes for traditionally marginalized students continue to be both a nationwide and an MMSD problem.

Using words like "cookie cutter" approach and "one size fits all," they portray the issue of access as one of "dumbing down" to low achievers. Nothing could be further from the truth in successful differentiated classes, where all students access curriculum at the learning levels that are appropriate for their individual needs and goals.

In fact, teaching in a fully inclusive model requires the best-trained, most creative and hardest-working school staff available. While Mathiak and Cole say it sounds good in theory, we have seen effective inclusive education in classrooms all over the district.

That's why Madison Partners supports strong leadership, high-level training and total team teaching as strategies to improve Madison schools and outcomes for all students. Just because inclusive strategies are challenging doesn't mean these research-proven methods aren't worth doing.

We encourage the community to step forward on this critical civil rights issue.

Kelli Betzinger, Kristina Grebener, Helen Hartman, Barb Katz, Jane and Randy Lambert, Lisa and Mike Pugh, Tom Purnell, Beth Swedeen and Terry Tuschen on behalf of Madison Partners for Inclusive Schools

Published: March 28, 2006
Copyright 2006 The Capital Times

Posted by at March 29, 2006 9:27 AM
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