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May 3, 2012

Budget Cuts: We Won't Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That's Okay.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Another approach might be eliminating programs or initiatives that are more closely aligned to student learning. Possibilities here could include reducing our school staff who are not classroom teachers, like Reading Interventionists, Instructional Resource Teachers, and Positive Behavior Coaches. We could also eliminate special interventions for struggling readers. The reading recovery program is the best-known example. While reading recovery is backed by research that supports its effectiveness, it's an expensive program and, at least as of a couple of years ago, we hadn't seen in Madison the level of successful outcomes in terms of students' reading progress that had typically been achieved elsewhere with the program.

My view is that we should have in place an established schedule for evaluating the effectiveness of our intervention programs, like Reading Recovery, and we should be willing to make difficult decisions based on what the evaluations tell us. But that evaluation and review process should be separate from our budgeting process. We shouldn't look at cutting programs like Reading Recovery strictly as a cost-saving measure. I doubt that we're willing to eliminate all intensive interventions for struggling readers - I don't even know if we could do so legally - and it's far from obvious that substituting one intensive reading intervention program for another would end up saving us all that much money.

Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District's Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags "National Average": Administration seeks to continue its use.

Much more on the Oconomowoc School District's high school staffing an compensation plan, here.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at May 3, 2012 10:31 PM
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Ironically, Madison's long standing reading problems truly merit new approaches. Yet, after 8+ years observing local schools, it appears that the public school system is incapable of systemic change to address this enormous problem.

Two examples:

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

60% to 42%: Madison School District's Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags "National Average": Administration seeks to continue its use:

I hope that Mr. Hughes and others on the Madison School Board rethink the longstanding "same service" approach to everything. Madison substantially outspends Oconomowoc, yet has been unwilling to take on this issue - not to mention math.

Posted by: Jim Zellmer at May 6, 2012 2:06 PM

Thank you for pulling out the data on reading and Reading Recovery. I wish I could say that I was very surprised that Reading Recovery features prominently in the first iteration of the famed Achievement Gap Plan given the questions about efficacy, what happens to the students who fall through the cracks because Reading Recovery is extremely labor intensive (in addition to yielding questionable results)and there are not enough staff to work with ALL of the kids who need reading remediation. Hope springs eternal that someone somewhere will rethink how to build strong literacy before the final plan comes forward for review and a board vote.

Posted by: Lucy Mathiak at May 9, 2012 4:10 PM
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