All posts by Ed Blume

Autism is “A Fraud, a Racket”

From Media Matters:

On July 16, the No. 3 syndicated radio talk show host in the country, Michael Savage, made the following statement on autism:
“Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism? … A fraud, a racket.”
Savage went on to say:
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I’ll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out. That’s what autism is.
What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, “Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.”
Autism — everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, “Don’t behave like a fool.” The worst thing he said — “Don’t behave like a fool. Don’t be anybody’s dummy. Don’t sound like an idiot. Don’t act like a girl. Don’t cry.” That’s what I was raised with. That’s what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You’re turning your son into a girl, and you’re turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That’s why we have the politicians we have.
During the same broadcast, Savage also attacked those in “the minority community” who suffer from asthma. He stated: “[W]hy was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I’ll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], ‘When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], “I don’t know, the dust got me.” ‘ See, everyone had asthma from the minority community.”
Michael Savage’s mean-spirited comments are disgusting and are an affront to basic decency.
Find your local Savage Station, log into our calling tool and tell your Savage station manager what you think of Savage’s tirade.

Update on funding for task forces

From Art Rainwater:

The Math Task Force was not funded by NSF. We have received funding from the University to conduct the Mathematics Evaluation part of the proposal that went to NSF. The rest of the proposal funded a case study of the actual process used by the Task Force we will not conduct that part.
We were notified last week that the Smaller Learning Communities Grant was not funded. We are reviewing the critique from the reviewers with plans to reapply in November.

Mathiak’s “concerns” about small learning communities

In response to my open records request to Lucy Mathiak for her records about small learning communities, I received a copy of the following e-mail which she sent to Jim Zellmer on July 6, 2007. I asked Lucy whether she wanted to post it or whether she’d prefer that I post it. Since she didn’t respond, here’s the memo:

Hi Jim,
This is provided as background only. I am not ready to go public with my concerns – yet. FWIW, tho, this is what I said to administration and the P&A committee:
Thank you for all of the hard work and time that has gone into developing the SLC grant proposal. I understand that this is an important opportunity to bring resources into the district to help focus on high school transitions and achievement.
While I am, in principle, supportive of the idea of SLC’s, I confess that I am baffled and disappointed by the proposal that I received for the reasons outlined below. I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be a lengthy iteration of what I view as significant problems in the proposal and in the programs if they are enacted.

Continue reading Mathiak’s “concerns” about small learning communities

WI reading gap is nation’s worst

From a story by Alan J. Borsuk in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The average reading ability for fourth- and eighth-grade black students in Wisconsin is the lowest of any state, and the reading achievement gap between black students and white students in Wisconsin continues to be the worst in the nation.
Those are among the facts found in a mass of testing results released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education, the latest results from a long-standing federal program called the National Assessment of Education Progress. It is the closest thing to a nationwide standardized testing program for reading and math ability.
The gap between blacks and whites was worse in Wisconsin than, say, Louisiana? Yes.
The average score for black fourth-graders in reading was lower than, say, Washington, D.C., or Alabama? Yes.

Lucy, please answer!

A week ago Laurie Frost and I posted the following, but you haven’t posted a response:

Lucy, Would you be willing to tell us — preferably with some substance and detail — how the BOE has been involved in the development and submission of the SLC grant? What role have you played? What on-going discussion has there been? What impact have you had? And so forth. I confess, it’s a mystery and a concern to me, as well. Thanks.
Posted by: Laurie Frost at September 7, 2007 5:04 PM
To make the issue even simpler, Lucy, do you support the direction of high school reform outlined in the grant application?
If yes, say no more.
If no, go back and answer Laurie’s questions.
Posted by: Ed Blume at September 7, 2007 7:44 PM

Would you please answer, Lucy? It’s part of being responsive to the citizens you serve and accountable for what you do or don’t do when you hold a public office — concepts foreign to the MMSD BOE in the past and the present.

Kewaunee High School goes solar

From WFRV:

KEWAUNEE (WFRV) – Tuesday morning, solar-electric panels were installed on the roof of Kewaunee High School.
The panels are part of a system that will produce about 2,800 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year – that’s enough electricity to power three classrooms, which amounts to approximately $200 in energy savings per year to the school.
In addition to the solar panels, the school was awarded a three-week renewable energy curriculum to be integrated into the science curriculum. Students and teachers can access data from the solar-electric system via the Internet and use the information in classroom projects throughout the year.
The system was donated to the school by WPS Community Foundation as part of the SolarWise® for Schools program. Every year three or four new high schools are selected. Since 1996, 41 high schools in the Wisconsin Public Service area have participated in the program.
This program is funded by donations from 3,800 Wisconsin Public Service customers, as well as state grants.

For more information on solar energy, go to Focus on Energy.

Open records request re: private school busing

I want to know who knew what when about missing the August 4 deadline to notify parents of the MMSD decision on busing private school students, so I sent the following to Steve Hartley:

I am sending this message to you because I was told that you are now the legal custodian of district records.
This is an open records request under sec. 19.35 of the Wisconsin Statutes for all records, prepared between August 22, 2006 and August 22, 2007, that relate to or mention in any way the busing of private school students by the Madison Metropolitan School District.
As I hope that you know, Wisconsin statues define records rather broadly. It is my understanding that the definition would include any e-mail between staff on their personal computers or MMSD computers and all e-mail that might have a format such as and
I look forward to your prompt response to this request.
Ed Blume

Don’t fund Small Learning Community grant sought by MMSD

August 20, 2007
Gregory Dennis
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 3W243 FB6
Washington, DC 20202-6200
Dear Mr. Dennis,
As a long-time advocate for academic excellence in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD, Madison, Wisconsin), I urge the Department of Education to reject the MMSD’s recent application for a Small Learning Centers grant, Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L.
Please visit a popular Madison blog,, where you will find long threads with comments, questions, and concerns about the grant application, as well as the MMSD’s pilot efforts in small learning centers.
Blog commentators, some of whom as statistics instructors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, clinical psychologists, and other professionals with advanced degrees, express little support for the MMSD’s implementation of small learning communities.
When people try to get evaluation data from the MMSD on the current small learning communities, the district cannot or will not produce the information. The little available information about the MMSD’s small learning communities does not point to success, but rather to no impact on academic achievement. (See the evaluation on the MMSD Web site by Bruce King, whose services the MMSD wrote into its grant proposal.)
As the MMSD implements small learning schools, it simply amounts to closing the achievement gap by limiting opportunities for academic success of advanced students without raising the academic performance of low-performing ones.
Finally, the MMSD would be better off not to launch a major program change, especially when the current superintendent, the champion for the changes, will leave the district in the summer of 2008.
Ed Blume

East student injured; principal pushed

RELEASE DETAILS FOR CASE# 2007-72110: Arrested Juvenile
Case Date:06/25/07 Case Time:12:19 PM
Release Date:06/26/07 Release Time: 9:55 AM
Released By: PIO Joel DeSpain
Address 2222 E. Washington Ave. (East High School)
Arrested person/suspect Male, Age 14, Madison
Tentative Charges: Batter to a School Official, Battery, and Disorderly Conduct
Male, Age 16, Madison
Tentative Charges: Substantial Battery, Disorderly Conduct
Male, Age 16, Madison
Tentative Charges: Substantial Battery, Disorderly Conduct
Male, Age 15, Madison
Tentative Charges: Violation of a Restraining Order, Disorderly Conduct
Victim/Injuries Male, Age 15, Madison
Taken to a local hospital with multiple cuts/bruises and possible broken arm
Details On June 25th, starting at 12:20 p.m., 7 Madison Police Officers were sent to Madison East High School for a fight. Four teens were arrested. They had teamed up against a 15 year old. One suspect indicated the victim had said something about his mother. He did not like the comment. In the course of the scuffle a Principal was pushed to the ground, and a security guard was jostled. At one point some of the teens rolled down a staircase and the victim’s arm was injured.

Fight with injuries at LaFollette

RELEASE DETAILS FOR CASE# 2007-65974: Disturbance
Case Date: 06/12/07 Case Time:12:18 PM
Release Date: 06/12/07 Release Time: 9:33 PM
Released By: Lt. Dave Jugovich
Address: 702 Pflaum Road (LaFollette H.S.)
Arrested person/suspect
Victim/Injuries: Two (2) students
Details: Several officers reponded to a report of a fight at LaFollette High School. Two (2) students were transported to an area hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the disturbance. One student was stuck in the hand with a pen, the other sustained an injury to his nose. The injuries were not life-threatening and the investigation remains under investigation.

Will Marquette & Lapham students be safe?

This is a report from the Madison police department on calls to the alternative programs that will be relocated to Lapham and Marquette. [The report had individuals’ names in a few instances, but I deleted them.]
06/07/07 14:48:28 M A D I S O N P O L I C E D E P A R T M E N T
* * * * * * ALTERNATIVE LEARNING ACADEMY 15 S BREARLY ST * * * * * * * *
10/05/2006 09:49 JUV COMPLT 06-120707 CK STUDENT – [Name deleted] 9/27/89 LISTED AS A Y FAVOU
11/20/2006 08:44 JUV COMPLT 06-140009 NO DATA Y FAVOU
11/21/2006 10:36 DRUG INCID 06-140448 NO DATA Y FAVOU
01/19/2007 08:56 THREATS 07-006335 SEE [Name deleted] HERE, NEEDS TO REPORT A THREAT, ANOTHER 0856,002 Y VALEN
02/07/2007 09:45 911 DISCNT 07-013478 MISDIAL 0946,004 N HENNE
04/16/2007 09:07 JUV COMPLT 07-039735 [Name deleted] IS HERE. THINK THAT SHE MAY BE A RUNAWAY. Y MCCON
05/18/2007 09:09 ASST FR/PO 07-054161 SMOKE IN THE BUILDING 0909,001 N SLAWE
* * * E N D O F R E P O R T * * *

No answer on Reading First from Dept. of Ed

The MMSD ballyhooed its effort to be reinstated for eligibilty to apply for Reading First funds, even after the superintendent returned more than $2 million in Reading First funds in 2004.
In reponse to my question about the status of being reinstated, MMSD employee Joe Quick last week said that the MMSD has recieved no substantive response from the Department of Education.

Van Pao will be green school

The Van Pao Elementary School will be certified for Leadership in Energy and Envrionmental Design (LEED), according to a story from Channel3000:

In spite of the controversy over its name, Vang Pao Elementary is officially under construction.
Ground was broken at the new school site on Wednesday. School board members along with Superintendent Art Rainwater and the building designers all turned the first soil where the school will stand.
The new school will cost $12,923,000. The 86,396-square foot school will have 36 classrooms and house 690 students and 90 teachers. It’s expected to be completed by September 2008.
The green building will be LEED Silver Certified, and will include geothermal day lighting and solar electric panels. The school will be located on Madison’s far West Side off of Valley View Road west of County Highway M on Ancient Oak Lane.

Continue reading Van Pao will be green school

Energy efficient amendment failed in Wisconsin budget committee

From a story by Lindsey Huster posted on the Web page of The Daily Reporter:

Sen. Mark Miller’s motion to issue $50 million in energy efficiency revenue bonds to Wisconsin school districts failed to be adopted by the Joint Finance Committee.
The effort was one of four priorities selected by a coalition of more than 50 conservation organizations and citizens around Wisconsin.
“We will continue working with the Legislature to find funding for school districts to increase efficiency and lower energy use, which improves Wisconsin’s environment and saves schools money,” said Jennifer Giegerich, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters energy advocate.

Continue reading Energy efficient amendment failed in Wisconsin budget committee

Procedure for reconsidering closure vote

This is from MMSD board attorney Clarence Sherrod:

The board uses a form of parliamentary procedures that allow board members to reconsider actions that have been taken by the board. There are a number of rules that relate to such reconsideration such as the person who is on the prevailing side can only make the motion to reconsider. The board’s agenda has to include the item that is to be reconsidered. A majority of the board or the president of the board determines whether or not an item is placed on a board agenda and when. Clarence

Only a member who voted in the majority, i.e., for closing, can make a motion to reconsider, so the pressure needs bear down on Cole, Moss, Silviera, and Kobza. If you can’t get one of them to make the motion, the school closing is done and over with.
Progessive Dane should lean on Beth Moss, the candidate it endorsed.

That was ugly

Last night’s budget session can only be described as ugly.
Ugly on so many different levels:

– Art Rainwater bullying Lucy Mathiak for asking questions;
– Moss, Cole, and Winston voting contrary to what they stated on “consolidation” in the campaign;
– Nickle and diming programs while huge chunks of the budget never get even a casual review;
– Board members ignoring parents, staff, and taxpayers on issues like coaches in schools and damned near any other issue on the agenda.

Board members and administrators alike should feel nothing but shame.
Personally, I’m done. I’m going to do my best never to give the MMSD another serious thought.
I’m going to tackle easier issues — global warming, peace between Jews and Arabs, ending the war in Iraq, the end of cheap oil, and other issues where I might actually be able to make a difference.
As the MMSD heads to decay and dysfunction, I just don’t give a damn.

School district biting hand that feeds it

A letter to the editor from The Capital Times:

Dear Editor: With the multitude of challenges it’s facing, the Madison Metropolitan School District needs all the friends it can get. But the district is alienating central city neighborhoods that value quality public education and the people who are willing to pay for it.
At election time, voters in Ward 34 on Madison’s near east side always turn out in huge numbers to support schools. In May 2005, Ward 34 cast the most votes in the district in favor of all three referendum questions, including one calling for a new Leopold School on the south side. In fall 2006, Ward 34 cast the most yes votes — 1,849 of them — on the referendum that included building an elementary school on the far west side.
So where is MMSD planning to cut costs to deal with its latest budget crisis? Ward 34!
O’Keeffe Middle and Marquette Elementary (where Ward 34 votes) are two of the most successful schools in the district, by any measure. But for some reason, the district thinks it’s a good idea to save money by uprooting and consolidating Marquette at the Lapham site and transforming O’Keeffe into a mega-middle school of as many as 800 students. That’s some gratitude.
The district will need a lot of support as it struggles with state-imposed spending caps, exploding health care costs, changing demographic patterns, and other threats. But if the district follows through on its plans for Marquette and O’Keeffe, it can no longer take that support for granted.
Joseph Rossmeissl, Madison

Cherokee principal to receive equal opportunity award

A press release from the Urban League:

Media Release
April 26, 2007
Contact: Scott Gray
(608) 251-8550
Cherokee Middle School Principal to Receive the 2007 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award
Madison, WI: The Urban League of Greater Madison recently announced that it will present Cherokee Heights Middle School Principal Karen Seno with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award.
The award is given annually by Boards of Directors of Urban League affiliates from across the country in memory of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League. Young was one of America’s most charismatic, courageous and influential civil rights pioneers. He worked tirelessly to gain access for blacks to good jobs, education, housing, health care and social services.

Continue reading Cherokee principal to receive equal opportunity award

Isthmus growth continues; closing plans shortsighted

Development on the isthmus continues, according to two two stories in the news today, making the prospect of closing central-city schools rather shortsighted.
From a longer story by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

E. Dayton Apartments: In other action Monday night, a plan from developer Scott Lewis and architect John Sutton for a five-story, 48-unit apartment building at 22 E. Dayton St. was referred to the May 7 meeting of the commission.
A plan for the site was approved in August 2006 that included razing a former church building wing for expansion of the First United Methodist Church on East Johnson Street. Those plans also called for moving a seven-unit apartment building from 18 E. Dayton to 208 N. Pinckney St. and demolishing a two-family home at 24 E. Dayton — all to allow construction of the 48-unit apartment building.
The new apartment building would feature 47 underground parking spaces and a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

From a story by Barry Adams in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Marling Lumber Co. will move from the 1800 block of East Washington Avenue near the Yahara River and has put the 3.8-acre property up for sale. Officials with the 103-year-old company, which has been at the location since 1920, say the move to T. Wall Properties’ The Center for Industry & Commerce along Highway 51 will provide room for growth.
The sale will also likely mean new life for the East Washington Avenue site and help create a gateway to the central city.
“That’s a very critical site especially when you factor in Fiore Plaza across the street,” said Steve Steinhoff, Dane County’s community development coordinator. “The two of those redevelopment projects together really have the potential to redefine that area.”

I previously wrote that growth on the city’s outskirts will likely slow as the world runs short of petroleum products and gasoline prices climb beyond where they’ve ever been before

Principals promote mid-sized schools

From a story by Susan Troller in The Capital Times:

Several principals spoke persuasively about the advantages of mid-size schools at Monday night’s Madison School Board meeting, but they apparently failed to sway any votes in support of school closings.
Cherokee Middle School Principal Karen Seno said she has allocated resources at her school to emphasize small class size, and the result is a school where there are generally two adults in every classroom.
Principals are weighing in on their view of possible school closings.
“Cherokee feels to me like a happy medium,” Seno said, neither too big nor too small. “It feels really intimate,” she added, which helps students connect with teachers and creates a learning environment where no one falls through the cracks. But the numbers at Cherokee — 538 students this year — also allow for a degree of program options and staffing that smaller schools don’t enjoy.
Newly elected board members Maya Cole and Beth Moss, who took their oaths of office at the meeting, said they were still inclined to vote against school consolidations. That seems to be the majority position on the board, with Carol Carstensen and Lucy Mathiak also saying they oppose consolidation plans that would affect a number of small schools on the east side.

Two protests over school closings

1. Kennedy Heights Community Center with the support of many other individuals and groups is organizing a walk from Kennedy Heights Community Center to Gompers Elementary School to raise awareness about the potential closings of Lindbergh Elementary School and Black Hawk middle school. Neighborhood Schools are a community resource for the children and families in Kennedy Heights and the northside; closing the schools would negatively impact our neighborhood, our community center, and the families that live here. Please come and walk with us to keep northside schools open.
The walk will start at the Kennedy Heights Community Center at 4:00 PM on Monday April 23rd – we will walk together from Kennedy Heights to Gompers Elementary school about 1.3 miles. At Gompers their will be a brief discussion and Popsicles for kids. All are welcome please distribute widely.
PS I know that school board members have a meeting at 5:00 PM, but I hope you can join us
for the beginning of our walk.
2. Join a grassoots rally: “An Hour For Marquette” – On Friday, April 27, from 1:30 – 2:30 come to Marquette and pull your Marquette student from class to protest the proposed consolidation (All concerned parents, students, and other community members are welcome to join in). We will rally at the school. Bring a sign that expresses your feeling about Marquette. We will be working to get press coverage and a visit from the Mayor. If you are interested in attending the rally e-mail Dea Larsen Converse at or Maria Moreno at so we can give a head count to the papers.
(Note that this is not a PTG sponsored event)
It’s not over yet! Let’s keep the pressure on!

Merge lobbying & PR to save teaching positions

The MMSD could save one or more teaching positions by combining two positions – public relations and government relations.
The government relations position seems unnecessary given the excellent work of Arlene Silviera and the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools. They have done more in a few short months than the MMSD has ever done to raise awareness about inadequate state funding.
Additionally, most district do not employ a lobbyist, but rely on the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin Council for Administrators of Special Services, and other organizations lobbying in the state Capitol
The PR position doesn’t seem necessary because the press seems to want to talk to the superintendent, not the PR guy.
Put the two positions together and the MMSD loses nothing and saves services delivered directly to students.

Math conference: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

From Diana Kasbaum, Mathematics Consultant & School Improvement Consultant, Title I and School Support Team, WI Department of Public Instruction

This is a reminder that the WI Mathematics Council’s Annual Conference (May 2-4) is fast approaching and will provide valuable opportunities to schools and districts using Title I funding for mathematics. As noted below, the Wednesday pre-conference focus is ‘Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners’ and will focus on ELL, Special Education and Gifted & Talented. The information will be valuable to those who work with Title I students. There are also keynote and sectional presentations about interventions, struggling learners, special education and Title I at the conference on Thursday and Friday.
Additional information can also be found at:
If you have further questions about Title I mathematics, please feel free to contact me:

More deck-chair shuffling

From the MMSD:

For immediate release
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Six elementary schools to have different principals
Six elementary schools will have different principals next year in a series of transfers and changes within the Madison School District. The principals who are transferring have been at their current schools from four to ten years.
The list of new assignments, by principal, with current school and length of service:
Deborah Hoffman to Lincoln from Franklin (10 yrs.)
Beth Lehman to Hawthorne from Lincoln (6 yrs.)
Catherine McMillan to Franklin from Hawthorne (10 yrs.)
Michael Hertting to Lapham from a leave of absence
Kristi Kloos to Lake View from Lapham (4 yrs.)
Joy Larson to Allis from Marquette (4 yrs.)
Allis Principal Chris Hodge and Gompers Principal Sherrill Wagner will retire this summer, and Lake View Principal Linda Sweeney will take a leave of absence for career exploration. Hertting will come off a similar leave; previously he led Orchard Ridge for five years. Vacancies will be filled within the next few months.
“We believe these assignment changes are good for the students, the staff, the principals and the district,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “Last year, we shifted six other elementary principals after stays of similar length.”
Parents at each of the schools were notified yesterday. The changes will take place over the summer in time for the Tuesday, September 4 start of the new school year. Each of the principals will assist her successor in the transition to make it more effective and efficient.

Constant shuffling of principals damages the effectivenss of the MMSD. All the rhetoric about building relationships amounts to nothing but words, when these actions speak louder.
The superintendent named no principal at Marquette. Apparently, he plans to “consolidate” Lapham and Marquette regardless of whether the board votes for it or not.
With the uncertainty and stress about staff cuts and school closings, the changes could not come at a worse time.
Is the superintendent hell-bent on destroying the MMSD?

Scholarships available to wind energy conference

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is pleased to announce the launch of the AWEA Educational Scholarship Fund. In cooperation with the generous support of Suzlon Wind Energy and Vestas Americas, this new scholarship program was created to provide complimentary conference registration for individuals interested in enhancing their knowledge of the wind industry, including full-time students, faculty and staff of K-12 institutions among others who want to attend those interested in attending the WINDPOWER 2007 Conference and Exhibition in Los Angeles, June 3-6, 2007.
The deadline for submitting an application for WINDPOWER 2007 Conference and Exhibition is April 28, 2007.
More details and application here.

Math task force named

According to Arlene Silveira, the superintendent named the following members of a math task force:

Merle Price (co-chair): an adjunct faculty member in education policy at Cal State University, Northridge. A former high school principal and deputy superintendendt for Los Angeles Unifed School District.
Jim Lewis (co-chair): professor of mathematics at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Was department for 15 years and has numerous NSF grants, including funding to improve mathematics education.
Neither co-chair has been directly involved in NCTM-based curricula implementation, in the interest of impartiality.
Other members:
Norman Webb, mathematics educator and evaluator
Martha Alibali, cognitive scientist
David Griffeath, mathematician
Eric Knuth, math education researcher
Mitchell Nathan, cognitive scientist
Ken Zeichner, university teacher education expert
A K-12 teacher and a parent are still to be named.

Arlene added:

No MMSD employee is on the task force, in the interest of impartiality. Lisa Wachtel and Brian S. will serve as point people for the task force if information or data is needed for the district.
The Board will be responsible for setting the direction of the task force and making decisions on “branch points” in the process. The community will be involved.

Freezing Business Services Budget Would Avoid Closings and More

This is a two-parter.
Part 1
In 2006-2007, the Business Services Department of the MMSD spent $111,286,422, according to page 2-118 of the document titled Department & Division Detailed Budget.
In the previous year’s budget process, the board approved spending of $110,245,079, according to page 10 of the Executive Summary, 2006-2007 School Year.
Why did Business Services overspend by $1,041,343? Did the board approve additional spending beyond what was initially approved in the 2006-2007 budget?
Part 2
In the current budget for next year, the superintendent’s proposed budget would INCREASE the amount to $114,239,659. Simply freezing the Business Services budget would reduce spending in the proposed budget by $2,953, 237 ($114,239,659 minus $111,286,422 = $2,953, 237).
The freeze would avoid micro-management by the board. It simply gives the administration a budget figure, and the administration will be free to operate within the budget.
The proposed plans to “consolidate” schools and move alternative programs would save $769,450. [See Discussion Item C-19 of the document titled Superintendent’s Budget Changes (Reductions to Balance the Budget) 2007-08]

Does budget make untrained staff responsible for special ed needs of speech and language kids?

Can anyone explain Discussion Item C-9, which says “Excluding from the cross-categorical special education allocation formula, Students with a Speech and Language Only Disability?” (I attached the district’s explanation below.)
It appears that speech and language clinicians will provide “special education services and supports,” but speech and language clinicians aren’t trained to deliver special education services. Is it a good idea to have untrained staff providing services to kids who need specially trained staff?
Additionally, this change will supposedly eliminate 22.5 FTE educational assistants and 22.5 FTE teachers. Will those positions be special education EAs and teachers?
It appears to me that special education students are going to be badly short-changed and mis-served.
Does anyone have another take on the cuts?

Continue reading Does budget make untrained staff responsible for special ed needs of speech and language kids?

Public hearings set on MMSD budget

6:30 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Public Hearing on the 2007-08 Proposed MMSD Budget
2. Adjournment
La Follette High School Auditorium
702 Pflaum Road
Madison, WI 53716
6:30 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Public Hearing on the 2007-08 Proposed MMSD Budget
2. Adjournment
Memorial High School Auditorium
201 S. Gammon Road
Madison, WI 53717

Wisconsin businesses don’t pay their fair share

From an Associated Press story in the Capital Times by Scott Bauer:

MADISON (AP) – If Wisconsin businesses would pay the national average in state and local taxes, an additional $1.3 billion would flow to school districts, fire departments and other governmental services, a new report concluded.
The study released Wednesday by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, a Democratic-leaning group founded in 1994 and based in Milwaukee, concludes that too many of Wisconsin’s biggest profit-makers are underpaying taxes when compared with their counterparts in other states.

Continue reading Wisconsin businesses don’t pay their fair share

Workshop on green charter schools

From the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association:

You’re invited to join educators, environmentalists and others at the Environmental Charter Schools Workshop.
Date: May 2, 2007, Wednesday
Time: 9:00am to 2:30pm
Site: MADISON, UW Arboretum
Workshop Program: Unique features of “green” charter schools, integrated environmental curriculum, standards and accountability, charter partners supporting sustainable schools, and implementing a green charter school. Learn more at Green Charter Schools.
Presenters, Partners & Discussion Leaders: JIM McGRATH, founder and former principal of Oshkosh Environmental Charter School; VICTORIA RYDBERG, Teacher, River Crossing Charter School; JULIE SPALDING, Educator, Fox River Academy, and INGRID BEAMSLEY, WCSA Deputy Director
Registration: The registration fee is only $20, which covers the conference, lunch and materials. Send registrant’s name and email address, along with a $20 check payable to the WCSA, to: Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, PO Box 1704, Madison, WI 53701-1704 . Questions? Contact the WCSA at: Tel: 608-661-6946 or Email: or FAX: 608-258-3413
Links to 40 “GREEN” charter schools.
Read about “Green Charter Schools” in Wisconsin Trails magazine.

The Changing Face of the MMSD: Why All Madisonians Should Care

From the listserve of Communities United:

MAGNET’s Public Policy committee invites you to attend a discussion on the social and economic impact of the changing face of the Madison Metropolitan School District. Superintendent Art Rainwater (Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District) and Dr. Douglas Harris (UW Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies) will conduct the discussion.
Why is this important to you? A community with good schools is a desirable place to live resulting in strong property values and a good economy. The percentage of low income students in the Madison Metropolitan School District has doubled in recent years to 40%. Learn how this impacts our community and how the MMSD is keeping Madison’s schools strong in the face of a dramatic increase of students with greater learning needs.
Superintendent Rainwater has served as the superintendent of the Madison Public School System since 1999. He has over 40 years of experience in education serving as a teacher, principal, and administrator in both public and private schools. Professor Harris is a UW Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty. He is a well-published economist whose work explores factors affecting student educational outcomes, the role of families and neighborhoods in education, and the way in which educational outcomes affect the long-term labor market success of students and the competitiveness of national economies.
We invite anyone with an interest or curiosity to attend.
When: Wed, April 18th
Time: Registration: 6:00 – 6:30p.m. Program: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Where: McDaniels Auditorium in the Doyle Building at 545 W. Dayton St.
Cost: Free

How much would the state spend to fund education adequately?

The school advocates who rightfully point to the state’s inadequate funding of education want the legislature to adopt Assembly Joint Resolution 35 or the identical Senate Joint Resolution 27. The resolutions call for the following:

1. Funding levels based on the actual cost of what is needed to provide children with a sound education and to operate effective schools and classrooms rather than based on arbitrary per pupil spending levels;
2. State resources sufficient to satisfy state and federal mandates and to prepare all children, regardless of their circumstances, for citizenship and for post−secondary education, employment, or service to their country;
3. Additional resources and flexibility sufficient to meet special circumstances, including student circumstances such as non−English speaking students and students from low−income households, and district circumstances such as large geographic size, low population density, low family income, and significant changes in enrollment;
4. A combination of state funds and a reduced level of local property taxes, derived and distributed in a manner that treats all taxpayers equitably regardless of local property wealth and income . . .

I dug around briefly in various Web sites (WAES and IWF) on these or similar recommendations, and I cannot find a fiscal estimate of whether or how much these changes might increase state aids, how any increase might be funded, and whether property taxes for education would fall. Does anyone have some figures?
If better funding requires the state to raise more money, the legislature should look at the falling proportion of state tax collections from the corporate income tax, raise the corporate income tax to a generate a fairer proportion of state revenue, and put the money into education.

Thank you from Marj

From Marj Passman’s Web site:

Thank you Madison voters:
This campaign began, in my mind, for the children of Madison. ALL the children. It wasn’t about the parents – let me repeat – it was about our young people. Every single person who came on board and worked their hearts out did it for the same reason. We needed to bring education back to its educators – to its teachers, curriculum designers, staff developers – back to its supporters – the people who care about every child.
This is called Public Education – not partnership with some ethereal, intangible, nether world of ill defined private saviors who aren’t exactly knocking down the doors at Doyle with offers of pots of gold for our struggling school system. It is about us – all of us – working with parents, not against them, working with teachers, not against them, working with administrators and not against them, working with the city, state and federal government not to just get back some money into our striggling schools BUT for what is our right, for PUBLIC EDUCATION. This money is our due- it is owed us – it is not a generous luxury.
We “pay taxes to support the role public education plays in civilizing and enriching our society.” What does that mean? Public education means what is best for all of us – not some of us – it means opportunity, it means mobility, it means our schools must be the “great equalizer” in our country. We cannot and should not educate some of children over others – our schools must be there for every child – for the voiceless and well as the angry few – for the children of poverty – for the children struggling with just the moment to moment functions of daily life. If we lose sight of the hungry, struggling children we lose our souls.
I believe we define ourselves by how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves and that the way we educate ALL of our children will determine what kind of city, community, democracy we have tomorrow.
To all of the caring, decent, humane people who supported my campaign You all mean so much to me – you have added so much to my life . I thank you so much. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.
Marjorie Passman
April 5, 2007

Discussion of contributions to the MMSD

On Monday, April 9, 2007, the board Committee on Community Partnerships, chaired by Lucy Mathiak, meets at 5:00 p.m. and has an agenda item that reads, “Process and procedure the University of Wisconsin Foundation uses to engage people to make contributions to the University of Wisconsin.”
I’m delighted to see the topic on the agenda, because I have always wondered why people give millions to universities and little to public schools. A person’s university education might have been very important and the contributions show their appreciation, but they couldn’t have succeeded at a university without the foundation of earlier education, which needs their contribtuions as badly as any university.
I hope the discussion produces some positive ideas for the MMSD to use in approaching potential donors.

Capitol press conference on school funding

From Tom Bebee, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future:

Wisconsin Association for Excellent Schools (WAES) and other school-funding reform advocates will be gathering at the State Capitol in Madison on Thursday, April 19, to support Senate Joint Resolution 27 and Assembly Joint Resolution 35 asking the Legislature to change Wisconsin’s school-funding system.
We need you to attend, if possible, and support these important resolutions.
A press conference will begin at 10 a.m. in the Assembly Parlor. This would also be an excellent opportunity to set up meetings with your legislators or their aides and talk about school funding, the joint resolution, and reform. If you need help, let me know. It would be a good idea to visit the WAES website at to study up on the resolution and its intent before you go.
If you plan to attend, please let me know by responding to this e-mail so we can make sure that all groups and organizations in attendance are recognized. Resolution sponsors Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and Sen. Roger Breske are hosting the press conference.

Federal Study Finds No Edge for Students Using Technology-Based Reading and Math Products

From the Education Week Web site:

A major federal study of reading and mathematics software has found no difference in academic achievement between students who used the technology in their classrooms and youngsters who used other methods.
The $10 million study of 15 educational software products is the most extensive federal study yet to follow methods that the U.S. Department of Education considers scientifically rigorous.

Extra effort could garner two diplomas upon graduation

From a story by Shawanna Robinson in the Daily Journal, Park Hills, Missouri:

Farmington High School Senior Jake Goff will graduate from Farmington High School this May with not only his high school diploma, but an Associate of Arts Degree from Mineral Area College as well.
He is the first of what the district hopes will be many students accomplishing such a feat. The Early College Pathway Program recently received a stamp of approval by both the Farmington R-7 Board of Education and the Mineral Area College Trustees.
The Early College Pathway Program is one where the Juniors and Seniors enrolled would finish their senior year with their high school diploma and either a transcripted 42 (credit hours) general education block from Mineral Area College transferable to most Missouri four-year universities or, such as Goff, with a 62 (credit hours) Associate of Arts degree from Mineral Area College. Goff will actually graduate with 64 credit hours this May.

High School “Better Newspaper Contest”

From the Wisconsin Newspaper Association via the DPI newsletter of State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster:

Student journalists are invited to enter their best work, published in their school newspapers during the 2006-07 academic year, in the high school “Better Newspaper Contest,” sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA).
The entry deadline is April 16 for awards to be presented in May at end-of-year assemblies. The contest period has been shifted from previous years to allow awards to be presented during the current academic year.
The contest annually recognizes student achievements in high school newspapering. The panel of judges from Wisconsin’s newspapers includes publishers, general managers, editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors and other staffers.
Any student enrolled in a Wisconsin public, parochial or private senior high school may enter. Information is available at WNA Student Newspaper Contest.

Keep the board functional: Vote Cole

A year ago, I joined other volunteers to help with the recount of the votes in Maya Cole’s slim loss to Arlene Silviera.
After the recount had been going for a while (I can’t remember whether it was the second or third day), the process clipped along smoothly with volunteers and the city clerk’s staff bonding with somewhat dark humor about the tediousness of the effort.
All of a sudden, someone helping Arlene harshly and loudly blurted out, “Those people can’t touch the ballots!” Someone helping Maya had handed a pile of ballots to one of the clerks, as everyone had been doing for the last day or two.
The room fell silent, as rooms do in reaction to something unpleasant.
Maya calmly stepped over to the person and matter-of-factly said, “Marj, we don’t want this to become antagonistic. We’re just being certain that all of the ballots were counted correctly.” Everything returned to normal.
The incident starkly shows the styles that Marj Passman and Maya Cole will bring to the school board if elected. I prefer Maya’s.
As I said before, the personalities of Bill Keys, Bill Clingan, and Juan Lopez reduced the board to ineffectivenss.
No one should want to put a person on the board with an interpersonal style that will again cripple its efforts.

Academy makes the improbable possible for teens

A column by Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Words tumble to mind by way of description. Words like desolate. Words like tough. Words like hard and mean and grim and sad. Words like dead. Bail bonds and liquor stores are what passes for industry here. Ragged row houses, many boarded and abandoned, crowd one another like strangers in a bus shelter.
Now consider the girl who goes to school here. Danielle Branche, 16, is tiny, has a pretty smile and speaks with self-possession about her dreams.
”When I graduate, I want to go to either Antioch College in Ohio or Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and I want to get my bachelor’s in both dance and business management so I’ll be able to open my own dance company,” she said.
Consider the neighborhood. Consider the child. If they seem not to fit each other, well, that’s the point. Welcome to St. Frances Academy. Welcome to What Works.

Cole endorsement was right on money

The Cap Times carried the following letter to the editor:

Dear Editor: I am supporting Maya Cole for Seat 5 of the Madison School Board.
The Capital Times was right in endorsing her candidacy. Her work ethic, thoroughness and openness to new ideas make her an ideal candidate. The school district is facing many tough issues, the most pressing being whether the elected School Board actually sets policy for the district or whether it merely acts as a rubber stamp for the administration and the teachers union.
Maya has shown a willingness to consider all points of view before making a decision and will be a thoughtful addition to the board.
While Maya and I probably do not agree on much regarding partisan politics, I feel confortable with her being on the School Board. Decisions regarding our children cannot be made based on political considerations and I believe that Maya Cole will leave politics at the door when making decisions about our schools.
Maya is giving us an opportunity to take back our schools and I urge everyone to vote for her on Tuesday.
John S. Pinto

Unions pump funds to Passman

According to the last campaign finance report available on this blog, these teachers’ unions contributed to Marj Passman’s campaign:

$1,560 – MTI Voters
$250 – United Northeast Educators, Green Bay
$250 – Green Bay PAC (Green Bay Education Association)
$500 – Wi Ed. Assoc. Council Fox Valley PAC
$200 – Children’s Great School Fund (WEAC’s conduit)

The difference between Maya and Marj

Isthmus gave the candidates a chance to make one last pitch for votes before next Tuesday’s election.
The statements of Maya and Marj say a lot about them as people and potential board members.
Marj repeated her line on all of her experience and said:

I have developed a finely honed instinct for what works and what doesn’t.

By contrast Maya said:

The community will be a welcomed partner with our public schools.

In other words, Marj said, “I KNOW what’s right and wrong.” That’s the board majority’s persistent response to outside input. “We know what’s right and wrong. Thank you very much. You can go away now.”
While Maya says, “I welcome a partnership,” which reflects an openness to the community.
I’m voting for Maya.

Nancy Donahue: Cole not “beholden”

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

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

Continue reading Nancy Donahue: Cole not “beholden”

Strange, strange budget process

I’ve never seen a budget process like that being followed by the MMSD and board.
Without having a budget, the board appears poised to close schools and lay off teachers. Who or why would anyone make these types of decisions out of context, that is, without a budget, with out even looking at options other than those recommended by an administration hell bent on preserving as much power and as many positions as possible in the Doyle Building?
It’s just insane, and supposedly rational people on the board think that it makes sense! Do they check their brains at the door when they walk into a board meeting?

2007 Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference

From the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association:

The 7th annual Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference, co-sponsored by the WCSA and DPI, will be attended by educators, parents, students, school officials, university people, community leaders, state officials, and many other charter friends. Conference Flyer (PDF).
Dates: April 15-17, 2007 (Sunday afternoon through Tuesday)
The Sunday afternoon (4/15) Wisconsin Charter Schools FAIR is open and FREE to the public. Conference sessions on Monday and Tuesday (4/16-17) will focus on planning, authorizing, implementing and operating high-performance charter schools.

School Board rejects referendum

From a story by Deborah Ziff in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Madison School Board voted against asking taxpayers to help stave off budget cuts as Madison public schools face a projected $10.5 million budget shortfall.
The board voted 5-2 against holding a June referendum, a measure proposed by School Board Treasurer Carol Carstensen. Outgoing board member Shwaw Vang joined Carstensen in voting for the proposal that would have asked taxpayers for an additional $34 million over the next three years.
Board members who voted against the referendum said it was too hastily drawn up, without enough time to refine a referendum question or engage in a campaign to drum up support. Board member Lucy Mathiak said the board has known since October that it would need to make tough budget decisions.

Susan Troller’s story in The Capital Times is here.

New revenue for schools

Governor Jim Doyle’s budget proposal includes language that would allow Wisconsin school districts to:

Construct or acquire, borrow funds to construct or acquire, operate and maintain a wind electricity generation facility, and use or sell the electricity generated by the facility, if the school board’s share of the installed capacity of the facility does not exceed 5 megawatts and the school boar incorporates information about the facility in its curriculum. (120.13(18m) WIND ELECTRICITY GENERATORS)

People should contact members of the Joint Committee on Finance to express support for the measure.

Closing Marquette: A preposterous idea

A letter to the editor that appeared in the Cap Times:

Dear Editor: As leaders in the Marquette neighborhood, we are extremely disappointed with the discussion of possibly closing Marquette Elementary School.
The Marquette neighborhood is an incredible success story. The economic upswing of this neighborhood has been tied directly to the positive programs being presented at Marquette and Lapham schools.
The $3.5 million addition and improvements made to the O’Keeffe/Marquette complex a few years ago brought incredible stability to this neighborhood. The voters and taxpayers citywide realized the importance of the improvements in keeping families in the downtown area and overwhelmingly approved this expenditure. It would be an egregious slight to abandon this elementary school as throngs of young families have moved into the Marquette neighborhood and greatly improved the housing stock and precipitated a building boom.
It is unprecedented that a diverse neighborhood that could walk in close to 300 students to fill their re-modeled school in a kindergarten through fifth grade configuration would be threatened with closing. It would be beyond belief that a School Board would ask a neighborhood to send five busloads of students to a crowded Lapham building at a cost of $36,000 per bus or $180,000 for the upcoming school year. We support the continuing elementary programs at Marquette and Lapham and keeping O’Keeffe Middle School at its current size.
We realize the school funding dilemma that the whole state faces has led to this situation. We are hoping that these inequities will change and that the option to de-stabilize our community is taken off the table.
Judy Olson
6th District alderperson
Anya Firszt
president,Greater Williamson Area Business Association
Gary Kallas
director, Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center
Published: March 22, 2007

Fight and arrests at LaFollette

According to a report from the Madison Police Department:

On 3/22/07 at 10:02 a.m. there was a large disturbance at LaFollette H.S. A school administrator had noticed a large gathering of students and hostilities between some wanting to fight. It was later learned that the disturbance was caused by three females confronting three other females to fight. The Madison Police Department Education Resource Officer (ERO) noted that upon arriving to the scene several hundred students were watching the disturbance, clogging the hallway, and that 10-15 school officials had to restore order. A total of six Madison Police Officers were present in the school to help calm this disturbance. Eventually some students were detained and separated. In one separation, two students went to an office and began fighting again. Police had to respond to that office as well to break up the secondary fight. The above-listed juveniles were arrested and placed in Juvenile Reception until parents were notified.

Cole wins Cap Times endorsement

The Capital Times said:

The Madison School Board’s makeup will change with the April 3 election. Its chief dissident, Ruth Robarts, is stepping down. So, too, is a quietly thoughtful member, Shwaw Vang, who has more generally sided with the board majority and the district’s administrators.
There are those who suggest that the entire direction of the board and the school district is at stake. That’s a stretch. Chances are that the next board will have a majority that is generally deferent to the administration and a potent minority that tends to challenge the administration to do better.That’s about as it should be.
Madison schools are essentially sound. But they are not improving at the rate that they should. And they are facing increasingly challenging budget shortfalls. Thus, a board that mixes those who want to maintain what is good about the schools and those who will be pushing for more accountability and progressive innovation holds the most promise.
Our endorsements in this year’s three contests for school board seats will look to achieve that mix.
We begin today with a strong endorsement of Maya Cole, who is seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by Robarts. Backed by Robarts, Cole is a solid progressive who has shown a willingness to spar with the district establishment. That upsets some defenders of the status quo, but our sense is that she strikes a mature balance between supporting sound schools and understanding the need to try new approaches in order to meet funding, staffing and curriculum challenges.

Continue reading Cole wins Cap Times endorsement

Testimony asks for three commitments

Thank you for your service and thank you for your request to hear from the community.
My name is Shari Entenmann and I’m here as a parent of 3 young children entrusting you with their school experience.
As you move forward with the budget process there are three things I’d like you to commit to:

1. Our downtown schools need to be vital, they are the heart of our city and why many of us moved here – myself included. Let’s not unravel what’s been built and what we can accomplish in the future. We want our schools to be vibrant and attractive so others choose to live here like I did.
2. Consider the details carefully – often it’s the details that matter:

a. What about the TEP program. My understanding from parents directly involved in bringing TEP to Lapham that part of what’s needed to make the program a success is the SAGE class sizes.

• Will Lapham still have TEP
• If TEP then SAGE, if SAGE is there room to consolidate?
• If not TEP, where will it go, back to Emerson – but wasn’t there concern about it being too much for one school?
• When making these decisions you have to consider this vulnerable population in this TEP program.

b. What about the alternatives program. Steve Hartley gave a very inspiring presentation last year at Marquette (when we were going through this exercise) and it was clear to me and others that the keystone to the success of the program is separating the kids from their age-group peers. Are you sure the proposal to move the program to Sherman has considered this, I didn’t see that consideration in the presentation to the board a few weeks ago.
c. Is the proposed larger middle school too big? I hear the comparison to Hamilton as a reference that it’s not. However, I don’t believe that’s an appropriate comparison. This is a very different population and I’ve heard concern from many teachers, and educators that’s it’s too big for this population, particularly with our resource restrictions.

3. An open process that allows all things to be discussed and considered with community involvement. We’ve heard several times that there’s nothing else to cut but things that effect the classroom and so everything must be on the table, even this drastic change that saves less than 700,000. However in all the discussion that’s lead to this point I haven’t heard any discussion on the following:

a. I’ve heard there may be more funds coming in the next few months – is this the time to propose such drastic changes – especially when these changes aren’t part of an overall plan but are part of the annual ad hoc widdling away process.
b. Extra-curriculars
c. Sports

Please consider what I’ve said. I believe it’s necessary to be successful because we live in a passionate community that strongly supports public education. Everyone needs to be involved.
Very sincerely, again, thank you for your service.
Shari Entemann

State Journal endorses Cole for school board

In an editorial on Saturday, the Wisconsin State Journal endorsed Maya Cole for school board:

Maya Cole likes to say that the Madison School Board needs to look outside the box.
She is right.
To solve budget shortfalls, address the district’s shifting demographics and narrow the achievement gap between minority and white students, the board cannot afford a business-as-usual approach. To push the board toward bolder action, voters should elect Cole.

Continue reading State Journal endorses Cole for school board

Live Chat: Reaching Gifted Children

Join Education Week on Monday, March 19, from noon to 1 p.m., Eastern time, for a live Web chat with Karen Isaacson and Tamara Fisher, the co-authors of “Intelligent Life in the Classroom—Smart Kids & Their Teachers,” a new book from Great Potential Press of Scottsdale, Ariz. This is the second in a regular series of chats on education books.
Isaacson and Fisher make a unique writing pair: Isaacson is the mother of five gifted children, while Fisher is the K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana.

Continue reading Live Chat: Reaching Gifted Children

Phonics is necessary but not sufficient

This post came from a listserve on reading:

This is in response to the NY Times article about Madison’s reading program. Of course a quick response is often inadequate. But here goes.
The simple fact is that correct decoding is necessary but not sufficient to comprehend what one is reading. Necessary but not sufficient appears to be a concept that escapes most of the field of education. What’s so hard about it, I wonder? You have to have water to stay alive, but that’s not sufficient to keep you alive. You have to have air to stay alive, but that’s not sufficient to keep you alive. Look at that dead person there. We gave him water and he still died. That must prove that water kills you!

Continue reading Phonics is necessary but not sufficient

MTI spending will likely top $10,000 for Moss & Passman

The Madison Teachers Union political action committee spent a little more than $7,500 in “independent expenditures” in support of for Juan Lopez and Arlene Silveira in last year’s school board races. The money paid for production and air time for radio and newspaper ads, but the figure does not include the newspapers’ charges for running the ad.
This year, MTI Voters (the official name for the union’s PAC) contributed the legal maximum – $1,560 – to each campaign committee of Marj Passman and Beth Moss.
We can surely expect MTI Voters to make independent expenditures for Passman and Moss equal to what the PAC spent last year.

Carstensen opposes consolidation, seeks referendum

Carol Carstensen circulated the e-mail below and gave permission to post it here:

I am opposed to the proposal to close/consolidate schools on the east side – I am also opposed to increasing class size (eliminating SAGE classes) in the lower poverty elementary schools (which includes Lapham and Marquette) and I am opposed to increasing the class size for specials (art, music, phy ed and REACH). Those proposals account for about $3.1M of the $7.1M proposed cuts.
I do not think there are other areas to cut that I could support, therefore, I believe it is time to talk about a referendum to maintain schools and programs that enrich our community. I am working on a proposal that for a referendum that would:
1) provide 15:1 class sizes at the 7 schools where SAGE is to be cut and the 3 schools that don’t have SAGE;
2) retain the class sizes for specials
3) keep existing schools open
4) restore strings for 4th and 5th graders
5) a number of other items that I am still working on.
This would come to about $6 M – which would cost about $100 in increased taxes on a $250,000 house.
Honesty compels me to say that, as of this moment, I do not have support from other Board members on this.

Marj still mum – 10 days and counting

It’s been 10 days since I e-mailed Marj Passman to get clarification on her inaccurate statement on starting teacher salaries and clarification on what she would do to raise those salaries after she cited them as a problem in recruiting teachers to the MMSD during an interview on WORT. Here’s her response:

Thank you Ed for pointing this mistake out to me. I went back to my source and discovered it was dated (another reason not to be depend on internet research). I will post this correction on my web site the first chance I get. Marj

Here’s my response to her:

Marj, Correcting the error on your Web site is good. Thank you. But how will you correct your mistake in the interview with Tony on WORT?
And, would you please answer my questions?
1. What would you do to correct low starting salaries for Madison teacher if you’re elected to the board?
2. Will you vote against any Temporary Impasse Agreement that cedes to the union’s demand to preserve the salary schedule that keeps starting salaries low?
3. In negotiations with the union, will you push for higher salaries for starting teachers? Ed Blume

You’d think that a candidate with years of insider experience would be able to provide some answers.

East siders angered by school plan

From a story by Susan Troller in The Capital Times:

Recommended Madison school district changes that involve closing a middle school and joining a pair of elementary schools on the near east side are causing heated reaction in the Lapham-Marquette neighborhood.
“Do we know what we’re doing here and does this actually reflect best practices?” Marquette parent and district teacher Kit Rittman asked, reacting to a boundary change scenario that would include closing Sherman Middle School and consolidating students at Black Hawk and O’Keeffe middle schools.
Both schools feed into East High.
Changes would also involve combining students from Lapham, a K-2 school, and Marquette, which houses grades 3, 4 and 5, at the Lapham building on East Dayton Street. Space at Sherman would be filled by moving an existing high school alternative program there.

We Energies offers great scholarships to CA energy conferences

The We Energies Renewable Energy Development Program
“2007 Wind and Solar Scholarship Program”
Request for Applications
March 5, 2007
Program Description
We Energies supports the development of renewable energy technologies as part of a long-term strategy for providing low-cost, environmentally sound energy options to its customers. To help in furthering this objective, the “2007 Wind and Solar Scholarship Program” will provide grant funds to faculty members at secondary schools, colleges, technical colleges, and universities located within the We Energies electric service territory for purposes of attending one of two conferences. The conferences include:
1. Windpower 2007, Los Angeles, June 3 – 6, 2007
The Windpower conference will include over 200 speakers, 150 poster presentations, and 50 sessions on leading wind energy topics organized into tracks with policy, business, and technical focuses. The conference anticipates 6,000 visitors.
2. Solar Power 2007, Long Beach, Sept. 24 – 27, 2007
This annual conference has become America’s largest solar energy event. Solar Power will feature 175 exhibitors, 125 speakers and networking opportunities. The conference anticipates 10,000 visitors.

Continue reading We Energies offers great scholarships to CA energy conferences

Another gem from Bill Keys and AMPS

Since Advocates for Madison Public Schools doesn’t allow access to the archived posts of its listserve, I post the following to illustrate the contempt these people feel toward anyone who isn’t in lock-step with their point of view:

Subject: [advocatesformadisonpublicschools] Summer Exercise for “Advocates”
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 23:51:45 -0000
Here’s an interesting post from a local blog:

I wil be moving to the madison area soon and need to find schools that
realize “gifted” children do have special needs. I can not waist anymore time trying to get this point accross to educators because meanwhile my cildren suffer. Where is the the best public school for gifted children in the Madison area? I will purchase a home right next door and hopfully I can stop fighting to get my children a proper education

And so “advocates”…how would you answer if she ran into you at the
grocery store?

Continue reading Another gem from Bill Keys and AMPS

Keys and Casteneda sing same song

After listening to Phony Tony Casteneda’s ludicruous charaterizations of those who post on this blog, I remembered a post by Bill Keys on a listserve sponsored by Advocates for Madison Public Schools. Bill and Phony Tony used nearly the same language and divisiveness. Here’s Bill’s rant:

Do you really believe that those who criticize public education are the least bit interested in INFORMATION?????
You shoulda been with us while campaigning for the referenda in 2005.
You’d know by now.
They are the Neo-cons and fascists who got us into Iraq, who support
amendments banning same sex marriage, who are opposed to sick leave for workers and living wages and health benefits as well, and who want to stop Mexican immigration even while eating the food that Mexican-Americans grow and harvest?
They are not at all interested. A FACT never changed any of these folks’ minds.
‘Course that’s assuming they have any.

Not a single one of the Advocates for Madison Public Schools called Bill on this abrasiveness or questioned his assertions.
Remember, these are the people who advise and support Marj Passman. Do the comments of Bill and Phony Tony reflect Marj’s feelings? Apparently, we’ll never know. She’s mum to e-mails and requests for her to explain her positions.

Confirmation of MMSD’s bargaining give aways

Roger Price provided a copy of the 2007 Voluntary Impasse Resolution Procedure agreement between the MMSD and MTI.
As reported earlier, if the MMSD and MTI go to arbitration, the MMSD agrees not make a final offer that would modify health insurance benefits for teachers or change the salary structure, which offers new teachers a starting salary of $23,000, a salary lamented by Marj Passman in her interview on WORT.
The agreement duplicates the 2005 agreement, as discussed here.

Financing Quality Education, March 12

Financing Quality Education: A Five-Year Look
March 12, 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.
Lower Conference Room
222 South Hamilton Street, Madison
Bring your brown-bag lunch and join others concerned about Madison schools to discuss long-range plans to help the district meet the financial challenges created by the state-imposed revenue limits.
The meeting and discussion will help identify the stakeholders and possible steps needed to begin and shape long-term view of the MMSD and its budget.
Some ideas were laid out on
“[Ask] what is the best quality of education that can be purchased for our district for $280 million a year. Start with a completely clean slate. Identify your primary goals and values and priorities. Determine how best to achieve those goals to the highest possible level, given a budget that happens to be $40 million smaller than today’s. Consider everything – school-based budgeting, class sizes, after-school sports, everything.”
Everyone and all ideas are welcome at this brown-bag discussion in the lower level conference room at 222 S. Hamilton Street.
For more information, contact Ed Blume at or by phone at 225.6591.

The MMSD five years from now

Financing Quality Education: A Five-Year Look
March 12, 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.
Lower Conference Room
222 South Hamilton Street, Madison
Bring your brown-bag lunch and join others concerned about Madison schools to discuss long-range plans to help the district meet the financial challenges created by the state-imposed revenue limits.
The meeting and discussion will help identify the stakeholders and possible steps needed to begin and shape long-term view of the MMSD and its budget.
Some ideas were laid out on
“[Ask] what is the best quality of education that can be purchased for our district for $280 million a year. Start with a completely clean slate. Identify your primary goals and values and priorities. Determine how best to achieve those goals to the highest possible level, given a budget that happens to be $40 million smaller than today’s. Consider everything – school-based budgeting, class sizes, after-school sports, everything.”
Everyone and all ideas are welcome at this brown-bag discussion in the lower level conference room at 222 S. Hamilton Street.
For more information, contact Ed Blume at or by phone after March 1 at 225.6591.

Campaign funnies

If nothing else, politics provides a never-ending source of entertainment.
Take Marj Passman’s Web site.
The site greets visitors with the headline “Marj answers 38 school issue questions received from Madison Teachers Inc. and the Madison Board of Education.” Finally! Proof that MTI and the Madison Board of Education are one in the same.
Then, a visitor gets the opportunity to click on the highlighted link to the Madison Board of Education. Only it goes the Madison Board of Education in Madison, Connecticut ( shot.)

Isthmus school targetted for closing

From all appearances, the MMSD administration desperately wants to close Lapham Elementary without giving serious consideration to other cost-saving options.
The 2006 East Area Task Force concluded that closing a school would be harmful.
Weigh in on whether to close a school by contacting board members and administators with this e-mail address:

This Bush Education Reform Really Works

A story by Sol Stern posted on City Journal highlights the success of Reading First and includes striking parallels to our superintendent’s response to the program:

Reading First, though much maligned, succeeds in teaching kids to read. . . .
A comprehensive study by an outside evaluator will appear in 2007, measuring Reading First’s influence on student achievement nationally. But some states and districts are already seeing significant improvement. When the relevant congressional committees hold hearings on NCLB reauthorization, they might start by looking to neighboring Virginia, where they’ll discover a dramatic example of Reading First’s power. With apologies to Dickens, we might call it a tale of two school districts—one welcoming Reading First, the other disdaining it.

Continue reading This Bush Education Reform Really Works

Outline of math task force

I believe that the school board voted to move forward on the superintendent’s recommendation to form a math task force. The board asked the administration to:
Initiate and complete a comprehensive, independent and neutral review and assessment of the District’s K-12 math curriculum.

· The review and assessment shall be undertaken by a task force whose members are appointed by the Superintendent and approved by the BOE. Members of the task force shall have math and math education expertise and represent a variety of perspectives regarding math education.
· The task force shall prepare and present to the BOE a preliminary outline of the review and assessment to be undertaken by the task force. The outline shall, at a minimum, include: (1) analysis of math achievement data for MMSD K-12 students, including analysis of all math sub-tests scores disaggregated by student characteristics and schools; (2) analysis of performance expectations for MMSD K-12 students; (3) an overview of math curricula, including MMSD’s math curriculum; (4) a discussion of how to improve MMSD student achievement; and (5) recommendations on measures to evaluate the effectiveness of MMSD’s math curriculum. The task force is to present the preliminary outline and a timeline to the BOE for comment and approval.
· The task force is to prepare a written draft of the review and assessment, consistent with the approved preliminary outline. The draft is to be presented to the BOE for review and comment.
· The task force is to prepare the final report on the review and assessment.

More details of the superintendent’s plans are here.

Madison Superintendent To Retire In 18 Months

From Channel 3000:

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Art Rainwater announced on Monday night that he will retire next year.
Rainwater informed the district’s Board of Education at their Monday meeting. His retirement will be effective the end of next school year, which will be June 30, 2008, according to a district press release.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the board and the Madison community,” said Rainwater in the news release. “This is a great school district and a great community that has always put the welfare of our children first. I am honored to contribute to this effort.”
Rainwater said that he gave the board 18 months notice so they would have sufficient time to conduct a search for the next superintendent.
Rainwater has been the district’s superintendent since February 1999.

School Board head faces challenger

Susan Troller reports in the Cap Times:

When Tom Brew takes on incumbent School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. in the spring election for Seat 4, he, like Winston, will bring a lifetime of experience with Madison schools to the race.
Brew’s own children attended Huegel and Orchard Ridge schools and graduated in the late ’80s to mid-90s. A lifelong Madisonian, he attended the former Longfellow Elementary and Central High schools.
“I felt I had some different viewpoints to offer from Johnny’s,” Brew said this morning. “Basically, I think Johnny has had a go-along-to-get-along attitude.”

Continue reading School Board head faces challenger

A Direct Challenge

Direct Instruction is just curriculum that uses direct, systematic, and explicit instruction. Any one of the direct instruction curricula would improve academic performance if it were used in the MMSD.
This comes from an Education Week article in 1999:

When an independent research group evaluated the research backing up 24 popular school reform models this year, it found two surprises.
The first surprise was that only three programs could point to strong evidence that they were effective in improving student achievement. The second surprise was that Direct Instruction, a program long scorned by many educators and academics for its lock-step structure, was one of them.
Direct Instruction grew out of studies on the teaching of beginning reading that Siegfried Engelmann began at the University of Illinois in the 1960s. Thirty years later, only 150 schools across the country use on a schoolwide basis the program he developed. By comparison, Success for All, another reform model with high marks for its solid research base, is used in more than 1,100 schools.
Thousands more schools, however, use Direct Instruction’s commercially produced materials–usually in remedial classrooms, special education resource rooms, or special programs for disadvantaged students.
“We were sort of like the plague for regular education,” says Mr. Engelmann, now 67 and a professor at the University of Oregon. “Regular education would have nothing to do with us. It wasn’t until the last few years that we started to break the mold.”

Work to change school funding already begun

A story by Kayla Bunge in The Monroe Times reports:

MADISON — With a new legislative session beginning in just about a week, the issue of school funding is certain to receive more attention.
And two local legislators — 17th District Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and 27th District Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton — already have begun working.
Schultz, the former Senate majority leader, played a leading role in creating the Special Committee on Review of the State School Aid Formula.
The committee’s purpose, he said, is “to recognize the special challenges that small school districts have trying to continue to provide a quality education in rural communities where student populations are declining.”

Continue reading Work to change school funding already begun

LaFollette’s four block schedule: good or bad?

When the four block schedule began at LaFollette a few years ago, the MMSD praised its succeses:

Under the new “four block” schedule, La Follette High School students are missing school less, are better behaved and are taking tougher courses, all of which is adding up to better academic performance, an analysis of first quarter data shows. Press release, December 17, 1997.
La Follette High School students flourished during the first year of the school’s four block schedule, a year-end summary reports. Press release, September 9, 1998

Continue reading LaFollette’s four block schedule: good or bad?

La Follette principal resigns; Rathert named interim principal

The MMSD released the following this afternoon:

La Follette High School Principal John Broome on Friday tendered his resignation from his position. Former Madison high school principal Loren Rathert now becomes the interim principal at the school for the remainder of the 2006-07 school year.
The Madison School District will conduct a national search for a new La Follette principal to begin the 2007-08 school year.
“John Broome came to us Friday and said that the needs of the school and his skills were not a match, and in the best interests of the school he felt he should resign,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater.
“I’m appreciative to John for recognizing the situation and putting the needs of the La Follette students first.”
Rathert is a veteran school administrator who retired in June of this year. He was the principal of Madison West for three years (2001-04) and was the interim principal at Madison East from September 2004 through June 2005.
“We’re fortunate that Loren Rathert is willing to take this position,” said Rainwater. “He’s an outstanding principal and is experienced in managing a large, urban high school.”
Broome became La Follette’s principal on July 1, coming here from a high school principalship in Charleston, IL.

Former teacher runs for School Board

Susan Troller reports in The Capital Times on school board candidates:

A retired teacher has thrown her hat in the ring as a candidate for the Madison School Board.
Marj Passman, who was active in the recent successful referendum to approve funding for a new elementary school, has announced that she will be a candidate for Ruth Robarts’ open seat on the board. Robarts, who has served as a School Board member since 1997, will not be running again.

Continue reading Former teacher runs for School Board

Superintendent’s letter misleads

Superintendent Rainwater and I engaged in a lengthy series of e-mails when I questioned the truth of a statment in a letter he wrote to Wisconsin congressmen to seek their help in reinstating the MMSD’s eligibility for funds from Reading First.
In his letter the superintendent said that the MMSD was told “we had to use one of the preferred reading packages authorized by USDOE.”
At first the superintendent denied that he said such a thing and asked me to retract the quote from the letter.
After I sent him a link to his letter, he kindly wrote:

I apologize. I did not recall the wording of the letter to our congressional delegation and the fact that we simplified the process in writing them. You are correct that this letter does not accurately reflect everything that happened during the process. Although it was made clear throughout the process that we could opt for one of the pre-approved programs and move ahead the choice was never presented that we had to do that. The final choice that we were faced with was to make the final changes that they required to our program, accept one of the pre-approved programs or reject the grant. Art

As I always say, take nothing from the MMSD at face value.

All kids need all skills to read

ALL knowledge and skills essential to reading are essential for ALL learners. Absolutely every proficient reader must master all of the following:

a. Phonemic awareness: hearing the separate sounds and syllables in words and words in sentences;
b. Alphabetic principle: knowing which sounds go with which letters; using knowledge of which sounds go with which letters to sound out or decode words;
c. Fluency: reading words and connected text quickly and accurately;
d. Vocabulary: knowing the meanings of words;
e. Comprehension: making sense of text.

Every “school” of reading instruction agrees on these five, whether the schools are Direct Instruction or constructivist (whole language and balance literacy).
However, direct instruction makes certain that every child masters every skill. Direct instruction leaves nothing to chance.
On the other hand, constructivist theory lets the child “discover” these five skills. Consequently, some children will discover them all; some will discover some of them; some may not discover any of them.
In short, learning is too important to be left to chance.

School Board to discuss future of high schools

From The Capital Times:

A discussion regarding the future of Madison’s high schools is back on the agenda for tonight’s School Board meeting.
The controversial item, which involves curriculum changes and other proposals, is scheduled as part of a special board meeting at 8 p.m. in the Doyle Administration Building, 545 W. Dayton St.
In an officers meeting last week, School Board President Johnny Winston Jr. removed the topic of high school redesign from tonight’s agenda, saying that he felt the process was not far enough along to produce a productive discussion.
But when other School Board members said that they would prefer keeping the subject on the agenda for tonight’s meeting, Winston agreed to return it to the lineup of topics.
The special session will follow meetings of the communications committee at 5 p.m., the human resources committee at 6 p.m. and the finance and operations committee at 7 p.m.
Later tonight, the board also is expected to go into a closed-door discussion of the negotiation strategy regarding Madison Teachers Inc., the teachers union.

Board works harder, better

What a difference a couple of elections make!
In November of 2005, the MMSD Board of Education held two meetings (and the attendance task forces met six times).
This November, the Board has six meetings of the full board, including executive and open sessions, and ten committee meetings. The Equity Task Force will meet once.
Congratulations to a harder working, more effective board.
Let’s elect people in the spring who will conintue this new board’s committment to overseeing management of the MMSD.

Redesign acknowledges failure to close achievement gap

The high school dumbing down (aka high school redesign) shows the MMSD administration’s loss of will, as well as its refusal to adopt curriculum changes needed to close the achievement gap.
The gap begins in elementary school: 46% of black students score below grade level on the third grade reading test, but only 9% of the white students.
The gap remains into high school: 49% of black 10th graders score below grade level in reading, while only 12% of the white students are at the minimal or basic levels.
Facing the failure to raise the performance of black students, the MMSD superintendent and his administrators have thrown up their hands and turned to dumbing down the curriculum.
The gap remains because the superintendent and administrators refuse to use curricula that will raise performance. For example, the MMSD clings to expensive and ineffective Reading Recovery and fuzzy math in the lower grades, while refusing to expand Read 180 which the district’s reading staff trumpeted for its success in upper grades.Previous boards and some current members share the responsibility too, because of their insistence that they have no role in curriculum issues.
Fortunately, the insistence of some board members to hold a public session on high school dumbing down might represent a modicum of hope that curriculum improvements may be possible.

Mutiny on the MMSD Intrepid?

Celeste Roberts posted the following comment in an earlier thread, and it’s too good to get lost in the comments section. It deserves recognition on its own.

Captain Rainwater of the MMSD Intrepid, renowned ’round the world for his feckless bravery and singlemindedness, stands at the helm of his beloved vessel and surveys the icy waters ahead.
A crew member approaches. “Captain, sir, we’ve just received an urgent radio message. Satellite photos show us bearing down on a large iceberg, and nearby ships respectfully asking us if we are monitoring this?” Captain growls, “Well, what do the instruments show?” “Nothing, sir.” Captain, glaring, “Well, what are you standing there for? Back to your post.” “But sir, what shall I tell the other ships?” “Tell??? Tell them NOTHING,” roars the captain. Some moments later, a loud cry is heard. “Ahoy! Iceberg spotted ahead.” Soon the deck is filled with sailors scanning the foggy seas ahead. The Captain impassively stands at the helm, maintaining his course. “Captain, what shall we do? Why don’t you turn the ship, call for help?” cries one sailor, despairing at the Captain’s apparent lack of reaction to the impending disaster.

Continue reading Mutiny on the MMSD Intrepid?

Did the tide turn last week?

A week ago, I said people who want change in the MMSD are a bunch of damn fools. We keep raising issues and making suggestions, but nothing changes. The champions of management without input must laugh themselves to sleep every night, I thought.
However, the forces of board and citizen control may have gained an upper hand in the last week:

The board proposed an independent review of the MMSD math curriculum when the superintendent defended it as good as any other math curriculum available and proposed adding math coaches.
The board proposed a goal for the superintendent to “Provide information to the Board in a clear, accurate, complete yet concise, and timely manner.”
Parents didn’t back down and said the central administration (not individual guidance counselors) had to clarify its own policies on credit for courses taken outside of the MMSD. AND, the board agreed to discuss the issue in committee. (In the last few years, board committees never met, and when they did, they just listened to presentations by the administration.)
The board seems to want to examine the dumbing down of high school curriculum. (The administration calls it high school redesign, but all the rest of us know its dumbing down.)
Lawrie Kobza uncovered the administration’s practice of proposing an out-of-balance budget. (Previous board approved budgets with barely a single probing question.)
The expenditure of $1.34 million for a Madison Virtual Campus came to light and may be an item for discussion on a future board agenda.

Could it be true? Could the board, parents, and citizens be taking control of the Madison schools away from the administration?