All posts by barb s

Madison School Board Fine Arts Task Force Seeks Input From the Community

Dear Community Members,
The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) values the arts as an integral component of a quality education for all students. Research has shown that involvement in the arts teaches children many important academic skills as well as enriches personal growth and development. Tight budgets, however, have increasingly affected the arts education we offer our children. Further, the District has monitored a downward trend in participation in arts offerings among low-income students and students of color for a number of years.
The Madison Board of Education formed the Community Fine Arts Task Force to gather information from the community and provide recommendations to the Board on MMSD’s arts education program. Specifically, the Board asked the Task Force to:

  1. Identify community goals for MMSD K-12 arts education including curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular;
  2. Recommend approaches for increasing participation in arts education for low-income students and
    students of color; and

  3. Recommend priorities for District funding of fine arts education.

October through December, the Task Force will be distributing surveys and conducting community conversations to gather information from the community on its goals for fine arts education. Your input is very important and will help inform and strengthen the Task Force’s work. The result of this work will be completed and presented to the School Board next spring.
We appreciate your participation in this important effort. To take the online survey and to learn more about the Community Fine Arts Task Force, go to www.mmsd.org/boe/finearts/ .
Sincerely,
Arlene M. Silveira, President

Call for Study of Access to Arts Education

Dodd, Alexander Call for Study of Access to Arts Education
Introduce Resolution in Recognition of Music Education
May 8, 2007
Today Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) sent a letter to David Walker, the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting that the GAO conduct a study on access to music and arts education in the American public school system since passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. This week, Senators Dodd and Alexander also introduced a resolution recognizing the benefits and importance of school-based music education. Senators Dodd and Alexander are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), and are Chairman and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Children and Families.
“No child should be deprived of the chance to explore his or her creativity in a nurturing educational environment,” said Dodd. “Picking up a musical instrument, a paint brush, or a script can allow a child to discover a hidden talent and can serve as a much-needed positive influence in the midst of the many difficult decisions that young people face today. I am hopeful that the GAO will act quickly to deliver findings about the current condition of arts education in American public schools so that we can seek to improve it during the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.”
Added Alexander: “Music Education is important. I had some great teachers, but my piano teacher, Miss Lennis Tedford was the best. From age five until my high school senior recital, I spent thirty minutes with her each week. ‘Don’t play that monkey business,’ she would say, as she could always tell when I’d been playing too much Jerry Lee Lewis. From Miss Tedford I learned more than music. She taught me the discipline of Czerny and the metronome, the logic of Bach, the clean joy of Mozart. She encouraged me to let my emotions run with Chopin and Rachmaninoff. She made sure I was ready for the annual piano competition, and that I performed completely under control. I still thank her for the discipline and love of music she gave me each time I sit at the piano today.”
A companion resolution – introduced by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Jon Porter (R-NV) – passed the House of Representatives on April 26 by unanimous consent.
The full text of the letter is below:

Continue reading Call for Study of Access to Arts Education

Update on Search for New Superintendent

Arlene Silveira, School Board President, provided the following update on the Isthmus Forum:
All – here is the update on the search for the new Superintendent.
On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings the Board will interview 4 search firms/consultants. We had decided that we want to use a consultant to assist wit the search for the new Superintendent. These meetings will be open meetings. Each company will make a presentation which will be followed by questions from the Board.
On May 29 the Board will meet to review the financial proposals from each company and rate them based on our RFP. Our hope is to have a company identified by our June 4 meeting so we can approve the company and move into the selection process.
Next steps after the selection include meeting with the board, staff and community to determine a “profile” for our next Superintendent. I don’t yet know how this will be accomplished. The specifics of the process forward will be dependent on the consultant chosen to help with the effort.
Arlene Silveira

Grade 5 Strings – How you can help

Grade 5 elementary string students need your help. There are ways you can support the hundreds of ten-year olds who are in Grade 5 strings and this year’s Grade 4 students who would like the chance to take the course next year:
A. Bring your child to play his/her instrument at Thursday’s Budget Hearing – April 19th at 6:00 p.m., Memorial High School Auditorium.
If your child would like to “play” in support of Grade 5 strings, there will be an opportunity to do this at Thursday’s budget hearing to be held in the auditorium at Memorial High School ( http://www.mmsd.org/145.htm). Students from grades 5-12 are welcome. There will be adults present to help coordinate the playing of a few songs from the strings festival. If you want to play, please come at 6 p.m., so we can organize the students.
B. Email the School Board – comments@madison.k12.wi.us – let them know:
1. you support the program for all children,
2. what this course has meant to your child if your child is/has
taken elementary strings,
3. you would like the newly formed school board community task
force on fine arts to have a chance to do it’s work, which
includes:
a. identifying the community’s fine arts education values and
goals,
b. identifying ways to increase low-income/minority
participation in the arts (45% elementary string students
are minority, 35% are low income), and
c. identifying funding priorities for the School Board
C. Speak at the Budget Hearings – 6:30 p.m. – Tuesday, April 17th at La Follette High School Auditorium and Thursday, April 19th at Memorial High School Auditorium:
There are two public hearings next week on the budget – Tuesday, April 17th, 6:30 p.m. at La Follette High School and Thursday, April 19th, 6:30 p.m. at Memorial High School – both public hearings are in the school’s auditoriums. If you come, you need to sign if you want to speak. You can sign in and not speak but say you support the program. Each person who speaks is given 3 minutes.
For nearly 40 years, MMSD has had an elementary strings program. Two years ago, elementary string instruction was cut in half. Last year, Grade 4 strings was cut entirely. This year, Superintendent Rainwater is proposing to cut Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate all string instruction during the school day.
Thank you for your support of Grade 5 strings and a strong fine arts education for our children.

Grade 5 Strings – Letter to School Board

Please write the School Board about what is important to you and your state legislature about funding our public schools. Following is a copy of my letter to the school board on Grade 5 strings:
Dear School Board Members (comments@madison.k12.wi.us),
I am happy to serve as a member of the newly created Fine Arts Task Force for the next year. The second charge to the committee is: ” Recommend up to five ways to increase minority student participation and participation of low income students in Fine Arts at elementary, middle and high school levels.”
I noticed in the Grade 5 strings report you received last week there was no information on low-income and minority student enrollment. Our task force received this specific demographic information at our March 26th meeting along with additional information, so I would like to share it with you, because I think it is important. As the program has been cut in the past two years, the low-income and minority student enrollment (numbers and percentage) has remained strong [but the cuts have affected hundreds of low-income students as the numbers show]. For this school year, 44% of the string students are minority students (47% of all Grade 5 students are minority students), and 35% of the string students are low income (44% of Grade 5 students are low income students). This information is captured in the attached Chart for the this year and the previous two years when the program was offered to students in Grades 4 and 5. I’ve also included information on special education student enrollment. I was not able to access ELL information for the previous years.

Decreasing academic opportunities to develop skills at a younger age is more likely to hurt participation at higher grades for low income and minority students who often lack support outside school to strengthen and reinforce what is learned in school either at home or through additional, private opportunities.
I hope you make the decision to give the Fine Arts Task Force an opportunity to complete its charge before making additional cuts to courses, because these cuts may prove to be more harmful to those students we want to reach than we realize. Also, if changes are made, I hope they are done equitably and with time for transitions. I’m asking this not only for arts education but also for other programs and activities Madison values in its public education. Eliminating elementary strings entirely would be the third year of major cuts in either funds or instruction time for students in this program. This seems to me to be overly harsh, especially when you consider that no extracurricular sports have been cut (nor would I support that).
Elementary strings is one arts course, but it has taught up to 2,000+ children in one year and is valued highly by parents and the community. I have 500+ signatures on a petition, which I will share with the board next week that says: “Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board: Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow Madison’s Elementary String Program. I have many emails with these signatures, and I’m planning to ask folks to write you about what this program means to them, so you hear their words and not only my words.
As I stated when I spoke before you earlier this year, there are those activities where a mix of public and private funding along with fees and grants might work for the arts and for extracurricular sports, for example. Please consider support of this and please consider helping with transitions toward different approaches.
Thank you for your hard work and support for public education.
Barbara Schrank
P.s. – note, I am speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the fine arts task force.
I would also like to add for SIS readers – I know due to the current financing scheme, the state is not funding public schools adequately nor fairly and is placing a huge burden on personal income and property taxes. I also know there have been cuts in previous years to the arts, increases in class sizes, fewer SAGE classes, etc. Just so you know, that is not the point of this letter. I see the need to work both locally and at the state. I also feel we need to be doing something more than referendums at the local level, and I don’t mean cut or referendum. I think in the areas of extracurricular sports, some of the arts, we may be able to put in place a financial package of public, private, fees, grants – but this takes time and planning and commitment by our school board following public discussions on the topic.
Not all minority children are low income, but by far, the majority of low income children are minority. By not working with the community on funding for this high demand, highly valued program, several hundred fewer low income students are receiving skill-based training on an instrument, which scientific research is showing more and more has a positive effect on other areas of academics.
No where else in this city do so many low-income children have the opportunity to learn how to play an instrument and to do so as inexpensively per student. This is a program where “thinking outside the box” for the School Board could come in handy, so we can continue this academic program as part of the school day for so many children.

April Board of Education Progress Report – Johnny Winston, Jr.

The month of April brings showers; however, for the Madison BOE it brings new beginnings, budget challenges and community dialogue.
First, regarding new beginnings, let me congratulate Beth Moss and Maya Cole on their election onto the Madison School Board. They will be replacing the retiring Shwaw Vang and Ruth Robarts. Our community should be proud of Mr. Vang and Ms. Robarts’ years of service. I was also re-elected to a second term and look forward to continued public service in this position.
In addition to new Board members, the Board decided unanimously to name the new school General Vang Pao Elementary.
Second, the Madison School District faces a $7.9 million dollar shortfall, which has the Board discussing school closings and consolidations, increasing elementary class sizes in several schools, increasing class sizes across the district in elementary art, music, gym and REACH, and eliminating the 5th grade strings program. After 14 years of being under the state imposed revenue limits, the budget cuts are now reaching the point of cutting into the foundation of our educational values.
Third, several public hearings on the budget reductions will be held throughout the community including on Tuesday April 17th at La Follette and Thursday April 19th at Memorial. Both hearings are at 6:30 pm. The 2007-08 budget will be finalized in late April or early May.
Fourth, the Board voted down an operating referendum proposal that could have taken place in the summer. However, given our budgetary situation I won’t be surprised to see an operating referendum on the ballot in February 2008.
Fifth, the Board approved a Request For Proposals for consultants to conduct a superintendent search, and decided on health insurance contributions for administrators.
Board Committees
A full month of public hearings and Board workshop agendas kept many committees from meeting since my last report. However, the committees have played an important part in analysis and discussion this year.
Finance and Operations (Lawrie Kobza, Chair) continues its work on the citizen’s budget. Long Range Planning (Carol Carstensen, Chair) held public hearings in the community regarding the proposed closings and consolidations.
Communications (Arlene Silveira, Chair) held a special workshop regarding community advocacy efforts regarding lobbying our state government for additional K-12 funding. Community Partnerships (Lucy Mathiak, Chair) received a presentation regarding the process and procedure the UW Foundation uses to engage people to make contributions.
MMSD News
On Monday March 26th, the MMSD held its annual recognition awards honoring district staff, students and citizens who have made significant contributions to Madison’s outstanding schools. Nine students received the Joe Thomas Community Service Award, five teachers were recognized for their work toward the Kohl Teacher Fellowship, and eleven individuals received the Distinguished Service Award. For more MMSD news click here: http://mmsd.org/today/
Thank you for your interest and support of the MMSD.
Johnny Winston, Jr., President, Madison Board of Education
jwinstonjr@madison.k12.wi.us
Want district information? Go to www.mmsd.org
Write to the entire school board at comments@madison.k12.wi.us.
Sign up for MMSD communications at http://mmsd.org/lists/newuser.cgi
Watch school board meetings and other district programs on MMSD Channel 10 & 19.
Ken Syke
Public Information
Madison School District
voice 663 1903; cell 608 575 6682; fax 608 204 0342

School closings critical in board race

John Nichols:
So how did Cole secure her 3,000-vote majority?
The answer would appear to have a lot to do with threats by school administrators to consolidate and perhaps close schools on the isthmus. A few months before the election, the administration floated the notion that budgets could be balanced by radically altering how Lapham and Marquette elementary schools and O’Keeffe Middle School are organized.

Editorial: Better school board races

Capital Times Editorial – April 9, 2007:
This year’s race for the Madison School Board seat left open by the retirement of Ruth Robarts makes the case for doing School Board campaigns differently.
This newspaper endorsed mother-on-a-mission Maya Cole over champion-teacher Marj Passman because we thought Cole had some stronger ideas about how to encourage innovation by a school district that is often too cautious when it comes to making needed changes.
But we would have been perfectly satisfied if Passman had won.
The truth about the race was that Cole and Passman were two of the finest contenders for the board that Madison has seen in a long time.
Unfortunately, you would not know that from listening to the campaign.

I Think There is Room For Improvement – I Look Forward to the new Board

There is room for improvement at the local level in this year’s budget process, and I’m hoping the School Board carefully examines the entire budget. By room for improvement, I do not mean “no new taxes” for schools. As part of this spring’s budget process, I hope the School Board looks out several years and begins to make decisions and plan with several years in mind.
I also believe it was irresponsible for the Superintendent to put school closings and increased class sizes on a cut list while leaving in nearly $2 million for extracurricular activities – that’s about 40 teachers in the classroom. I feel the proposed TAG cut was spiteful as was a third year of major cuts for elementary strings at the same time a Community Fine Arts Task Force begins its work. So, yes, I do hope our School Board looks for options, such as saving transportation costs on the near east side as Lucy Mathiak discovered. Also, to keep the arts and sports, we may need to look at multiple sources of funding but some time is needed for discussions, planning and transitions.
If the School Board begins planning now for several years, incorporating this year’s budget and subsequent budgets with strategic financial planning, we’ll have a better chance of laying the groundwork for an operating referendum later this year or early 2008, but we have to begin now. I’m confident we can successfully pass operating referendums.
Lastly, the election was last Tuesday, and the results were decisive, so why aren’t the folks who care so much about public education moving on? I and others were sad when our candidate did not advance in the February primaries, but we did not carry on about it nor wring our hands over the poor media coverage, which many felt there was.
There are more important things to work on, in my humble opinion – learning how to work together might be a place to start since I still believe we all value excellent public education, which is a great starting point from my perspective. Sadly, I am concerned there are those who would rather spend their time labeling those who don’t agree with them as CONSERVATIVES – start shaking in your boots. I prefer not to waste my energy on such foolishness and fear mongering, because I don’t see how that puts the kids first and gets us where we need to be for them.

Cole, Moss and Winston – Newly Elected and Re-Elected to the MMSD School Board

Tuesday, April 3rd Madison votes returned Johnny Winston, Jr., to the School Board and elected two new board members – Maya Cole and Beth Moss.
Election of Cole, Moss may ease thoughts of school closings As candidates, both Cole and Moss have said they would look for other places to make cuts rather than disrupt families and neighborhoods through school closings.
School Board winners to pick superintendentIn winning her second bid for a School Board seat after losing to Arlene Silveira by 79 votes last year, Cole is the third candidate to be elected in three years who has called for radical change in the way the board does business, joining board members Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak.
“I feel like my message resonated with people all over the district,” said Moss, who co-chaired a grassroots effort to help pass last year’s successful school funding referendum.

Cole’s vision makes her best fit for board – Vote Today

Vote Today – I’m endorsing Maya Cole for Seat 5.
A letter to the editor
On Tuesday, please join me in voting for Maya Cole.
For many years, I’ve been an active advocate for Madison’s schools, working on campaigns and task forces, as well as a volunteer in schools and a PTO officer. I’ve been encouraged by the substantive discussions the School Board has undertaken this past year with new perspectives, but there is more work to be done.
With annual budget cuts in the millions of dollars, doing business as usual jeopardizes our neighborhood schools, puts academic excellence at risk and alienates the community by pitting parent against parent.
This short-term planning cannot continue, and Maya Cole won’t let this happen.
As a board member, she will work with the School Board to develop a long-term plan.
Cole will also work with and be open to ideas from teachers, parents, students and the wider community. Her openness, innovation and fresh perspectives will help strengthen Madison’s excellent schools.
I support Maya Cole for Seat 5 on the School Board.
Barbara Schrank
Madison
Published: April 2, 2007 http://www.ci.madison.wi.us/clerk/

Ruth Robarts: Let’s take school closings off the table, start the planning needed for another referendum

Ruth Robarts, who supports Maya Cole and Rick Thomas for School Board, wrote the following letter to the editor:
I voted no on Carol Carstensen’s proposed three-year referendum for several reasons.
First, a referendum requires careful planning. Two weeks’ notice did not allow the School Board to do the necessary analysis or planning.
Second, the referendum is not part of a strategic long-range plan. The district needs a 10-year strategic plan, and such a plan must address the structural deficit created by state revenue limits. It must also bring businesses, community organizations and the city of Madison into the solution. While referendums for operating dollars will be necessary, without planning they are of limited use.
Third, relief from the state revenue limits is not on the horizon. Gov. Jim Doyle has no proposal for eliminating the revenue limits. Madison’s state representatives recommend that we focus our lobbying efforts on small -cale, stopgap funding issues.
There are some steps that the School Board can take to increase public confidence and pass operating budget referendums in the future.
1. Direct the administration to find the best ways to use the Doyle Building to generate revenue for the district. In 2006, the board defeated this proposal (Kobza and Robarts were the only yes votes.) Using the building as a revenue-generating asset could also move administrators to school buildings and help keep the schools open.
2. Negotiate changes in health insurance coverage for teachers to minimize future costs. Administrators and other unions have recently made such changes without losing quality of health care.
3. Take the closing/consolidation options presented by the Long Range Planning Committee off the table. Look for more focused approaches to saving money, such as moving the Park Street Work and Learn Center into an under-enrolled elementary school as we did in the past when we housed WLC at Allis School.
4. Invite the community to join in a strategic planning process as soon as possible. As long as the state and federal governments shirk their responsibilities and the state over-relies on residential property taxes to pay for essential local services, there will be a gap between the tax funds available and the cost of the high-quality, comprehensive K-12 school system that we want. We need a plan as badly as we need the elimination of the revenue limits and a progressive tax to adequately fund our schools.
Ruth Robarts
member, Madison School Board
Published: April 2, 2007

MMSD School Board Communications Committee Meeeting Tonight – Information and Advocacy Session

I’m passing along the following information I received:
The Governor’s 2007-09 biennial budget provides some assistance for Madison Schools in the areas of SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education), the 15:1 K-3 class size reduction program, special education/bilingual-bicultura l aid and allowing some expenditures for safety/security to be outside the revenue caps.
We would like to hold an information and advocacy session related to the state budget on Thursday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the McDaniels Auditorium of the Doyle Administration Building . The meeting will provide you with information about the budget and advocacy “talking points” to contact legislators and gain support for some of the budget’s provisions.
At this meeting, we would also like to begin preliminary discussion of ways to link Madison parents to parents in school districts in counties surrounding Dane – a neighbor-to- neighbor outreach effort to talk to legislators about the devastating affect of revenue limits to our communities’ schools.
We share your frustration as we annually watch more programs and services to students slowly dismantled by the state-imposed revenue limits. Together, we can work to educate legislators and bring about school finance reform. We look forward to seeing you on March 29.
Sincerely,
Johnny Winston, Jr.
Board President
Arlene Silveira
Communications Committee Chairwoman

Maintain and Grow Madison’s Art Programs: Support Elementary Strings

Parents and Students distributed to attendees of the recent Spring 2007 Strings Festival the following information in a flier:
Madison Community Asks the MMSD School Board:
Don’t Cut, Work with the Community to Strengthen and Grow
Madison’s Elementary String Program

Superintendent Rainwater has proposed cutting Grade 5 strings, which would eliminate the nearly 40-year old elementary strings program. This does not have to happen and you can help:
1) Email the School Board (comments@madison.k12.wi.us), letting the School Board know:
a. You support elementary strings and a vibrant, strong fine arts academic education for all Madison’s school children as important for and fundamental to a student’s personal and academic growth, and
b. You support and want the newly formed School Board Community Fine Arts Task Force to have a chance and time to explore ways to continue and to sustain elementary strings, and all arts education, in Madison’s schools, without further cuts to programs.

Sports and Fine Arts – Planning for the Future

I pulled my blog from yesterday, because I think my main point got lost in too much unnecessary rhetoric. Basically, I would like to see the School Board support efforts to develop multi-year education funding plans for Fine Arts Education and extracurricular competitive sports. I would like to see the School Board be equitable in their cuts and help transition to a mix of public/private financing if that is needed in the future. I don’t see any reason to whack at or eliminate one program vs. another – it’s disruptive and unnecessary and plans cannot be made.

Elementary String Education for Nine and Ten Year Olds: Private Funding Required

According to a meeting I had with the Superintendent, he says MMSD will require $300,000 to fund elementary string instruction and that private funding and/or grants will be needed to continue Elementary String Education in the Madison public schools. Without this funding, he is likely to again propose cutting this Madison public school tradition of nearly 40 years.
I’m exploring setting up a specific fund for string education at either the Foundation for Madison Public Schools or the Madison Community Foundation, so tax deductible contributions can be made in support of the curriculum. Madisonians United for String Education for Students (MUSEs) is a working title for a group of parents who want to keep elementary string instruction in our public schools for our young children. We welcome your ideas on next steps. Personally, we feel if this is the route we have to take, an endowment fund will be needed to ensure the course continues into the future.
I met last week with the Superintendent who said he a) supports elementary string curriculum instruction during the school day, b) would accept proposals for privately funding elementary string education. I also said the support and/or leadership of the Fine Arts Coordinator was important to such an effort, and he agreed, saying the Fine Arts Coordinator would be supportive.
Public schools surrounding Madison have strong, growing elementary string courses, because the community values the course and this is the foundation course for more advanced instrumental training/experiences in middle and high school. Plus, elementary string courses make their school districts attractive to parents deciding where to live and to send their children to school. Many parents want their children to have the experience of learning to play an instrument and to make music with other students. Private lessons can cost $2,000 or more per year – few families can afford this, especially low income families. That’s what’s special about Madison’s elementary strings program. In Madison, in previous years, Grade 4 and 5 strings taught about 500+ low-income students annually.
String instrument instruction offers a number of benefits for children – they can be sized to a small child, they are “easy” to take home to practice, all types of cultural and popular music can be played on the string instruments, and these instruments lend themselves to ensemble playing. Furthermore, learning how to play an instrument prepares you for playing a string or band instrument in middle school or for chorus, because you learn how to read music. Through the one- to two-year elementary course, children experience the joy of making music and performing through discipline and practice. Also, by offering this course Madison’s public schools stand shoulder to shoulder with what the surrounding school districts value and offer their children.
Lastly, I’m also be looking at various financial information to develop some proposals for the School Board’s consideration. I welcome your support and ideas.

Elementary Strings: Update and Community Appeal

Action and Help Needed: I am beginning to work with some parents and others in the community to raise awareness and possibly financial support for all fine arts education. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to help, let me know (schrank4@charter.net or 231-3954). I will be posting on the blog more of what we are doing, including surveys and petitions of support.
Due to the proposed budget gap for next year and the Superintendent’s preliminary discussion idea to cut up to $300,000 from elementary strings, our focus will be on this course in the short-term. Elementary strings is only one piece of Fine Arts Education, but there is no other organization that teaches so many low income children how to play an instrument for about $200 per child vs. $2,000 per child in private instruction. We would like to resolve this issue this spring, working collaboratively with the administration and the school board.
The School Board would like proposals from the community re supporting elementary strings. I have begun working with parents and others on this topic, and I welcome ideas and support from readers of this blog. In addition to various proposals for School Board consideration, which I’m being encouraged to submit, we feel there is a need to raise awareness of the importance of a strong, vibrant standards-based, academic fine arts education. For an instrumental curriculum that meets national and state standards, course instruction begins in Grade 4 and classes are held at least twice weekly during the day.
The demand for elementary strings from parents and students has been and continues to be strong; but sadly, I feel the administration (not the School Board) has been a barrier to moving forward in partnership with the community, preferring each year to cut and to whittle away the course each year rather than gather the community together to bring ideas and solutions to the table. Last November, I asked District Administration for the following basic information: number of elementary string students, number of FTEs, number of middle and high school band and string students, number of FTEs, and revenue collected. I have not received this information, which I need to work on proposals, even though I have asked for the information repeatedly. The administration may have a lot on their plate, but I was only asking for basic information needed to develop some proposals for board consideration. I thought, perhaps the administration is working on their own proposals to continue this course, but that is not the case.
Up until a few years ago, there were nearly 2,000 4th and 5th grade students taking elementary strings, 30-40% of these children were low income (600+ children). During the 1990s, as the district’s low income population increased, enrollment in elementary strings doubled from about 1,000 students in 1991 to more than 1,900 in after the year 2000.
Elementary strings has been part of the Madison schools for more than 40 years. Growing school districts around Madison offer this course, and the enrollment is growing. Grandparents and parents who live in Madison took this course when they were in elementary school. The large string festival is one of other opportunities that make our elementary schools unique. If we want to keep parents sending their children to Madison, and to keep the needed diversity in our schools, I think this course is important and unique to Madison.
I hope some of you will join me in supporting a vibrant fine arts education for our children and working on proposals for elementary strings. Thank you for reading this blog item,
Barb

Continue reading Elementary Strings: Update and Community Appeal

Youth Options Program – DPI Information and Link

There’s been discussion on this website about taking UW classes and the WI Youth Options Program – who pays and who gets credit, what are the District’s policies. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has a website with a brochure and frequently asked questions on this program – http://dpi.wi.gov/youthoptions/yocolcont.html. The website also includes the state law on this topic.
The Youth Options program allows all public high school juniors and seniors who meet certain requirements to take postsecondary courses at a Wisconsin technical college or institution of higher education. An institution of higher education (IHE) includes UW System institutions, tribally controlled colleges and private, nonprofit institutions. Youth Options Program Brochure
On Monday, November 13th at 6:15 p.m., McDaniels Auditorium, the Board of Education’s Performance and Achievement Committee’s second topic for discussion isCredits for courses outside the MMSD.

Continue reading Youth Options Program – DPI Information and Link

I Didn’t Know … Reading First Grant Audit

In the post “Audit Faults Wisconsin’s Reading First Grant Process” the author, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, in Education Week wrote, “There is also no explanation of the decision by officials in the Madison school district to give back its $2 million grant shortly after it was approved. Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater decided to drop out of the program after federal consultants told district officials they would have to abandon their existing literacy initiative and adopt a commercially published core reading program, he wrote in a detailed memo to the school board. (“States Report Reading First Yielding Gains,” June 8, 2005.)”
I thought MMSD, per the Superintendent, did not continue the process rather than turned down an approved $2 million grant, because he felt the District was being pressured into a curriculum that did not support what was currently underway in the District, and the Superintendent felt the District’s curricula was better for Madison’s kids.
Does anyone remember the process? Was the School Board involved?
I’m sick to my stomach about the Dept. of Education’s administration of the Reading First grant dollars. Does anyone know if children’s reading achievement has improved due to Reading First?