All posts by Jim Zellmer

The 5 Bedroom, Six Figure Rootless Life

Peter T. Kilborn:

Ms. Link and her husband, Jim, 42, a financial services sales manager for the Wachovia Corporation of Charlotte, N.C., belong to a growing segment of the upper middle class, executive gypsies. The shock troops of companies that continually expand across the country and abroad, they move every few years, from St. Louis to Seattle to Singapore, one satellite suburb to another, hopscotching across islands far from the working class and the urban poor.
As a subgroup, relos are economically homogenous, with midcareer incomes starting at $100,000 a year. Most are white. Some find the salaries and perks compensating; the developments that cater to them come with big houses, schools with top SAT scores, parks for youth sports and upscale shopping strips.

I found this article quite interesting, particularily the choice this family made with respect to their next move (an older, established neighborhood).

Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age

John Seely Brown (Brown was Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC, where many of the technologies we use today, including, ethernet, Laser Printers and the GUI were invented):

My interest here today is in looking at the notions of learning, working and playing in the digital age and how today’s kids—growing up digital—might actually be quite different from what we might first think. But, more particularly, how by stepping back and looking at the forces and trends underlying the digital world, we may have a chance to create a new kind of learning matrix, one that I will call a learning ecology.
I became interested in learning ecologies because of their systemic properties. We need to view higher education from a systemic perspective, one that takes into consideration all of the components—k-12, community colleges, state and private colleges and universities, community libraries, firms, etc.—that make up a region. This, in turn, raises additional questions about how we might create a regional advantage such as in the Research Triangle in North Carolina or in Silicon Valley. For example, is there a way to extend science parks, that typically surround universities, into also being learning parks and from there into being learning ecologies by combining the knowledge producing components of the region with the nearly infinite reach and access to information that the internet provides? And, if so, might this provide an additional use of the internet in learning—one besides just distance learning. But first, let’s consider what the Web is and see how it might provide a new kind of information fabric in which learning, working and playing co-mingle. Following that we will then look at the notion of distributed intelligence which has a great deal to do with the social basis as well as the cognitive basis of learning, and how those fold together. Then we will look at the issue of how one might better capture and leverage naturally occurring knowledge assets, a topic as relevant to the campus as to the region or to the firm. Finally, we will come to the core topic of how all this folds together to lead to a new concept of a learning ecology.

Background on John Seely Brown: Clusty

DC Voucher Program Summary

Jay Matthews:

After a one-hour bus trip, including one transfer, they reached the private Nannie Helen Burroughs School in Northeast Washington, which the children began attending in the fall under the D.C. school voucher program. Then their mother took a 45-minute bus trip to her job as a store clerk in Pentagon City.
In the evening, she did the same bus commute in reverse, picked up her children from the school’s day-care program at 6 p.m. and escorted them home. The next day, she would rise at 6:15 a.m. to do it all again.
Nine months into the experiment, it is too early to know how the nation’s first federally funded voucher program is affecting the academic achievement of the hundreds of D.C. children who won the private school scholarships. But spending time with the Hammonds provides a glimpse of the benefits and the sacrifices that the program entails for one family.

Atlanta Parental School Lunch Monitoring System

Daniel Yee:

Health officials hope it will increase parents’ involvement in what their kids eat at school. It’s a concern because federal health data shows that up to 30 percent of U.S. children are either overweight or obese.
“My parents do care about what I eat. They try, like, to keep up with it,” said Hughes, a 14-year-old student at Marietta Middle School.
Three school districts in the Atlanta area last week became the first in the country to offer the parental-monitoring option of an electronic lunch payment system called Mealpay.com, created by Horizon Software International of Loganville, Ga

David Brooks on The Educated Class

David Brooks:

The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then congratulate themselves for sending their children to public schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.

Matt Miller on Teacher Pay for Performance

Matt Miller:

This isn’t to diminish the many great teachers who work their hearts out for poor kids in trying conditions. But it’s these teachers who’ve told me with passion how mediocre many of their colleagues are. We’re essentially relying on missionaries to staff schools in poor neighborhoods. How many more years have to pass before we admit that the missionary “plan” isn’t working?
Yet the problem with most pay reforms (like Arnold’s) is that they’re all stick and no carrot. Or they offer such small bonuses (say, $2,000) that teachers have no reason to rethink their aversion to pay differentials based on anything but seniority.
The answer is to think bigger. Consider this “grand bargain.” We’d raise salaries for teachers in poor schools by 50 percent. But this offer would be conditioned on two major reforms. First, the unions would have to abandon their lock-step pay scale so that we could raise the top half of performers (and those in shortage fields like math and science) another 50 percent. Second, the unions would have to make it much easier to fire the worst teachers, who are blighting the lives of countless kids.

NPR: Washington DC Jr. High Orchestra Teacher Interview

All Things Considered:

Sarah Henks is a first-year orchestra teacher at Kipp Academy in Washington, D.C. The Florida State University graduate says she had originally wanted to perform in an orchestra herself, but something kept pulling her towards kids, strings and the classroom.
For her it’s been a year of highs and lows. Her junior high orchestra just performed its first big concert. We recently visited her class and asked her to tell us how the year went.

De-Gifting

Adam Klawonn:

An honors program beset by ethnic tensions and strained relations between parents and administrators at Lincoln Middle School is being eliminated.
After three months of public debate, trustees for Vista Unified voted 4-1 late Monday to eliminate the Gifted and Talented Education program, which supporters said promoted Lincoln’s brightest students. School administrators, however, said the GATE program was closed to most students.
The board’s decision will open honors classes that have GATE students to everyone.
School and district officials said putting GATE students in classes with those of mixed abilities would help improve test scores.

Joanne Jacobs has more.

Mertz on Teacher Layoffs

Reader Thomas J. Mertz emails:

I agree with Ruth Robarts that the Board should explore all options before laying off classroom personel and that revisting the ongoing MTI negotiations is the place to start.
I think that this issue is also linked to a key to the failure of two of the referenda — the transparency of the process. Wages and benefits are by far the largest budget item, yet the negotiations with MTI are shrouded in mystery. I’ve looked through the newspapers, the MTI site and the MSMD site and can find very little information about the current negotiations. Perhaps this is a legal question and negotiations must be secret (does anyone know?). But if they can be public and publicized, they should be.
If, as many believe, the administration and the Board need to be tougher with MTI, then public scrutiny woulkd make this more likely. If the administration and the Board are already sufficiently tough with MTI (as many others believe), then public scrutiny would undermine the position of those who question the contracts.
I see many potential benefits and little if any harm coming from shining a light on the negotiations.
Thomas J. Mertz

Post Referenda Notes, Comments & Interviews

Here’s a brief roundup of post Referenda voter comments:

Continue reading Post Referenda Notes, Comments & Interviews

Offshore Tutors

Anupreeta Das and Amanda Paulson:

Somit Basak’s tutoring style is hardly unusual. The engineering graduate spices up lessons with games, offers rewards for excellent performance, and tries to keep his students’ interest by linking the math formulas they struggle with to real-life examples they can relate to.
Unlike most tutors, however, Mr. Basak lives thousands of miles away from his students — he is a New Delhi resident who goes to work at 6 a.m. so that he can chat with American students doing their homework around dinnertime.

Via Joanne Jacobs

Robarts Advocates a Delay in Teacher Layoffs

Sandy Cullen:

Madison School Board member Ruth Robarts wants fellow board members to delay today’s vote to lay off about 20 teachers next year in order to ask the Madison teachers union if it would agree to smaller wage and benefit increases to avoid the layoffs.

“Before you do something as severe as layoffs, I think you need to exhaust your alternatives,” said Robarts, who estimated that keeping the 20 teachers positions would cost about $1 million.

Robarts article is here.

Referenda Local Media Summary

Yesterday’s Madison School’s Referenda generated quite a bit of local coverage. Check out these links:

State School Test Scores Released

Alan Borsuk:

The brightest spot in the tests statewide appeared to be reading for eighth- and 10th-graders. The results show that 85% of eighth-graders were proficient or better in reading, up six percentage points from a year ago, while 74% of 10th-graders cleared the proficiency bar, up five percentagepoints from a year ago.
But for fourth-graders, the percentage proficient or better went down in math and science, stayed the same in reading and language arts and went up one point in social studies.
And an eight-point jump in the percentage of eighth-graders who were at least proficient in math only reversed an eight-point drop among the eighth-graders in the prior year – a sign both of the way scores can change from year to year and of how little things have changed in recent years.
The gaps that leave low-income and minority students scoring far below other students remain large and in some instances were worse in this school year’s testing. There have been some instances of the gaps shrinking, but it remains as much as 50 percentage points in some cases (78% of white 10th-graders and 28% of black 10th-graders were demonstrated proficient in math.

WKOW-TV: Botched Ballots Flagged Weeks Ago

WKOW-TV Madison:

Madison School District employees are unlockinging ballot boxes at polling places, and stocking them with reprinted ballots for the school district referendum election.
Normally, this would be a job for specifically trained city workers.
Assistant City Clerk Sharon Christensen says she does not have the staff to stock ballots this quickly, this close to an election.
She’s also worried about handing off this job. “I’m a little uncomfortable.”…
School district officials budgeted $90,000 for this election. Officials said they are still waiting for a cost estimate on the reprinting of 84,000 ballots, but said it could as much as $50,000. The ballot amount reflects an expected turnout of 21% of eligible, registered voters.

Northside Planning Council Referenda Forum

Lee Sensenbrenner summarizes Thursday night’s Madison Schools Referenda Forum:

Northside Planning Council’s moderator, Vernon Blackwell, asked if further cuts were required, should the district commit to keeping small class sizes at schools with the greatest need even if it meant raising class sizes at schools with lower poverty levels.
Robarts and Kobza said yes, as did board member Carol Carstensen, but she started to say “Of course I’ll do it –” before Blackwell said: “That’s a yes.”
Brant, Keys, board member Johnny Winston Jr. and Madison Cares leader Arlene Silveira said no. Rainwater said it wasn’t his decision and stuck to that as Blackwell told him that “You can’t abstain.”
During the audience comments, Dorothy Borchardt said that she was dismayed that Rainwater wouldn’t answer the question and said that it was no defense to say it was up to the board to decide. “The School Board is your rubber stamp,” she said.
Apart from the referendums, the district’s leaders were also challenged on why a $2 million federal reading program grant was declined and how they would handle class sizes if resources continued to dwindle.
Rainwater said that taking the money would have meant eventually teaching an unproven curriculum to all students at all schools and would have meant losing a program the administration believes is working.
But before he said that, Carstensen tried to explain it in the context of breakfast cereal.
“Let’s say you’re on a tight budget and someone is willing to give you $50 per month for food,” Carstensen said. “But it can only be spent on Fruit Loops. Would you take it.”
Several people in the back whispered: “Of course!”

IBM: Colleges: More Top Students Needed

Mindy B. Hagen:

With a critical shortage of Information Technology workers projected in the coming years, it’s crucial that university computer science departments do all they can to attract top students to the field, a local IBM official said Tuesday.
At IBM University Day in Research Triangle Park on Tuesday, leading IBM officials and university professors from across the region gathered to discuss new ways of marketing computer careers to up-and-coming students.

More Referenda Views

Sandy Cullen talks with a number of local players, including Art Rainwater, Roger Price along with both supporters and opponents of the 5/24 Referenda vote.
Cullen also mentions the very high taxpayer cost for these initiatives, due to the State’s equalization formula. For each $1.00 in new spending, the District must tax Madison homeowners $1.60! Essentially, as local spending exceeds state averages, the State reduces aid.
I find the support that Madison has shown for local education remarkable. Consider:

  • Madison spends an average of $13K per student, 25% more than the state average.
  • The District’s annual budget has increased from roughly $193M 10 years ago to $319M this year while enrollment has remained flat (Demographics have changed, of course)
  • Madison has many active volunteers who devote their time to local education efforts.

This support is positive and rather unique. The debate, in my view, is when we collectively reach the (tipping) point where piling more and more on the property taxpayer effectively erodes this essential support. I also think the District could significantly improve the transparency of the budget process (one simple example: the implications on student programs and teacher staffing of contract decisions made months before the “annual spring cut/spending reduction list” discussions).
I think the Madison Education Community should create an initiative to change the way we fund local education. I don’t believe a top down approach to school financing change will work. It may get passed at some point, but I doubt we’ll like the outcome.

For Immigrant Students, Math is One Road to Success

Michael Winerup:

So it was a surprise to see the photograph in the weekly paper, The Quincy Sun. There, on Page 7, was the Quincy High math club, and 17 of 18 members were Asian. Mathematically, it made no sense. Quincy High is 22 percent Asian; why is the math club 94.4 percent Asian?
Evelyn Ryan, the math department head, says that before the influx of Asian families began, there was one calculus class of 10 students; now there are two calculus classes totaling 40 students, 75 percent of them Asian.
I wanted to ask math club members why Asian students are so good in math. As I was to learn, it wasn’t such a simple question.
Most Asians at Quincy High have been in America only a few years, from China, Vietnam and Thailand. Most know little English when they arrive and are placed in E.S.L. classes (English as a second language.) “When I was a freshman, half year in U.S., English is a big problem,” said Chaoran Xie, a junior now. “I just know, ‘Hello how are you?’ History is a big problem. You don’t openly express yourself because you don’t know what to say and stuff. In history it’s a simple idea, but you don’t have the basic English.”

5/24 Referenda – Special Interest Money

The Madison City Clerk’s office has posted Pre-Special Election Campaign Finance Information for the 5/24/2005 Referenda:

Lee Sensenbrenner follows the money.
Local Parent/Activist and Madison CARES supporter Arlene Silveira argues for a yes vote on all three questions.
Learn more about the referenda here.
UPDATE: Sandy Cullen has more on Referenda spending.

Continue reading 5/24 Referenda – Special Interest Money

Fed Up With Lunch Waste

Don Behm:

“They never eat them all,” Aubrey said, referring to chicken nuggets left on the trays of first-, second- and third-graders.

The pair saw only a small portion of a nationwide pile of school lunch waste.

Each year, about $600 million in food served by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program is thrown away by students, the department’s Economic Research Service estimates in a report. That amounts to 12% of the food they are served.

Board Debates 1.8M in a $319M Budget

Lee Sensenbrenner picks up much detail (great work!):

Later in the night, when the board was going back and forth over whether it might keep kindergarten art, music and computer class sizes from doubling next year – a move that would have saved around $270,000 – Robarts said she was struggling to understand how that discussion was taking place when the district next year will pay $21 million for health insurance.
“Excuse me, that’s not germane,” board member Bill Keys said. Earlier Monday, the board had been meeting in closed session about the teachers’ contract currently under negotiation. No financial terms have been disclosed.
“OK, that’s it. I’ll shut up,” Robarts said. “It just seems very backward.”

Continue reading Board Debates 1.8M in a $319M Budget

Casey Hoff on the Referenda

Case Hoff:

Referendum is a word that rolls off the tongue like a fiery expletive after you get your property tax bill in the mail every year. Why such lewd language? Probably because a referendum seems more common than a cold day in January and the Madison School Board is now asking you to approve not one, not two, but three referenda totaling over $48 million dollars. This includes a $7.4 million revenue cap raise, $26.2 million over five years for building maintenance, computer technology, and instructional materials, and $14.5 million for the Leopold Elementary School facelift.
You may be asking yourself, “Should I really vote ‘yes’ and just bite my lip as I tack on another $108 to my property tax bill?” You may be saying, “I strongly support funding for our wonderful public education system, but are they making all the cuts they can to clean up the budget?” Don’t tell Madison CARES Spokeswoman Beth Zurbuchen that you’re considering voting ‘no’ or you’ll be drug out in the mud and figuratively shot like a feral cat in the north woods of Wisconsin (oops, touchy subject, sorry).

Zurbuchen’s quote can be found here.

Carol Carstensen on Isthmus’ Recent Madison Schools Coverage

This article, by Madison School Board President Carol Carstensen, appeared in Isthmus‘ May 12, 2005 edition:

Over the last two years, Isthmus’ articles on the Madison school district, especially its approach to teaching reading, have reminded me of a favorite quote from Adlai Stevenson: “These are the conclusions upon which I base my facts.”
The Madison school district has gotten a great deal of negative coverage from Isthmus, despite the fact that the district has seen continued improvement in the numbers and percent of children achieving at the two highest levels on the state’s third-grade reading test.

Continue reading Carol Carstensen on Isthmus’ Recent Madison Schools Coverage

Blocking Reform

Joanne Jacobs:

From the Huffington Post: Mike Piscal, founder of the very successful View Park Prep charter school in the low-income, minority Crenshaw District of LA names names in analyzing why 3,950 ninth graders at South LA’s four major high schools turn into 1,600 graduates, 900 college freshmen and 258 college graduates. More here.

This is related: Shanghai Jiaotong University won the recent ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. The US hasn’t won since 1997. The University of Illinois finished 17th, CalTech,Duke and MIT finished 29th while UW-Madison earned an honorable mention.

Stressed Out: Parental Pressure to Excel

Dave Murphy:

As the boy played behind the bushes at his Redwood City school, his obviously agitated mother grabbed him, abruptly escorting him to her car.
“She asked him what he thought he was doing and proceeded to tell him all in one breath that he would never get into a good university or have a good job if he spent all his time playing and goofing around,” said Jim Dassise, a parent who watched the episode unfold. “He should be more like one of his friends, who spent his time studying and having good grades.”
The boy was about 9 years old.

Madison Schools Medicaid Reimbursements

Mike Johnson takes a look at a Medicaid reimbursement program that pumps about 700K into the Madison Schools annually. The article provides a useful look at the strange way (and the costs) in which the money finds its way to local districts.

“The reason Madison started in the Medicaid reimbursement program could be summed up in two words: revenue limits,” said Joe Quick, the legislative liaison/communication specialist for the district. “Despite the somewhat cumbersome paperwork and a reimbursement formula where the state skims money off the top, the school district’s efforts are financially worth the work.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Jon Carroll on “Our Mothers, Ourselves“:

She learned to scuba dive. She was active in the League of Women Voters. When I was 28, she and my stepfather moved to Ethiopia. She worked for the World Health Organization, preparing educational materials that said, in essence, “Please do not defecate in the river.”

Koloen: School Board Should Question Health Care Costs

Jim Koloen (appeared in the Capital Times):

Dear Editor: It is perplexing that the Madison School Board can approve a labor contract without actually having read it except through a summary provided by the administration. Why bother with a board at all if it simply behaves as though the administration and the board are one and the same? The words “rubber stamp” come to mind.

Evidently another contract ( five year transportation) was approved on May 2 – without presentation of the full financial details. (9 minute video clip of the discussion – the award was approved 4 – 2 with Kobza & Robarts voting against it due to lack of information. Check out the video). Generally, I think a five year deal is not a bad idea, IF all of the costs & benefits are known.

Continue reading Koloen: School Board Should Question Health Care Costs

Homeschooling & The World is Flat

I mentioned to a few friends recently that I think the Madison School’s “same service” budgeting approach (year after year) needs to be replaced by a new, largely curriculum based process that recognizes globalization, changing demographics and the fact that we should not simply compare our performance and curricula with those of Racine, Green Bay or Ann Arbor. Rather the comparison should be with Helsinki, Bangalore, Shanghai, London, Nagoya and (insert your city here).
Parents have a growing number of choices these days (some don’t realize that they have them – yet). Homeschooling appears to be the elephant in the room along with the slow rise of virtual schools.
Julie Leung sent a timely bolt of lightning to the blogosphere with her essay on education, including a discussion of her reasons for homeschooling:

Our desire to preserve our childrens’ organic curiosity plays a large part in our desire to homeschool. Too often the school system crushes curiousity out of a kid. Kids have a natural desire to learn.

Read Doc’s post for more background & links along with Gatto

Madison Schools 2005/2006 Budget?

I’m wondering if the MMSD’s 2005/2006 budget is floating around… somewhere? I’ve heard that it was released to the BOE members earlier this week, but I’ve not seen any sign of it on the District’s website. Stranger still, President Carol Carstensen required Board members to have their amendments in by noon today (5/5) – roughly 36 hours after receiving a budget, that, as far as I can tell, is not available to the public.
Ed Blume noted earlier that Milwaukee’s proposed budget is online.
I find Carol’s extremely short Board Member Amendment turnaround to be unusual, given a $320M budget…. Why?
The District’s 2004/2005 budget is available here (8.6MB PDF).
UPDATE: Ed Blume emailed a link to this 82 page 2005/2006 budget summary – pdf file. FWIW, the previous budget document – link above was 368 pages.

Minnesota Increases State School Funding

Minnesota Public Radio:

The bill represents a $622 million (12.6 Billion Package) increase in state aid over the next two years, although not all schools would get an equal cut. Each district could count on having $284 added to their basic per-student allowances in two installments, raising it to $4,885 by the second year.
School districts in high poverty areas, those with low property tax bases and ones that shift to a new teacher pay system would be in line for greater funding boosts. Statewide, the schools will see an average of $665 more per child in fiscal years 2006-07.

My view is that we lose a great deal of influence as we rely on state/federal funds.

Dying Institutions, Thriving Institutions

JennyD has a thought provoking article on General Motors, The Education Establishment and Journalism:

Most of the institutions in both of these fields are based on decades-old structures, with work structures and beliefs that are being battered everyday. Journalism is under enormous pressure, and newspeople feel it. They’d like to say it’s not their fault (see this Tim Porter post on the mood of the newsroom for more on that) but as Porter points out, they are as responsible as everyone at GM is for their predicament. Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis write about this all the time…and offer criticism and alternative id

UC System Struggles to Attract Minorities

Tanya Schevitz:

Ramine Cromartie-Thornton is just the kind of student that UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau wants to attract to his campus to increase ethnic diversity: She is African American, has a grade point average of about 4.2, a 1310 SAT score and plans to major in engineering.
But eight other universities want her, too, including Harvard, Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania. In the end, UC Berkeley wasn’t even in her top three.

Madison Mother Wants in to Virtual Charter School

Channel3000:

A Madison mother is threatening to go to court if necessary to get Madison schools to transfer two of her children to a virtual charter school.
The transfers were denied based on race, and the family says that’s discriminatory, reported News 3’s Linda Eggert.
Two years ago the Madison Metropolitan School District allowed the family’s oldest boy to transfer to the virtual school open enrollment. Earlier this month, two of his younger brothers were denied the same kind of access.

interesting issue

Scullen on Wisconsin’s Thriving Charter Schools

Tom Scullen (Scullen is superintendent of the Appleton Area School District, which has 10 charter schools. He also is president of the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association.):

Charter schools are playing an increasingly important role in that success story.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, at a recent state charter school conference, said charter schools “are critical in making schools learning environments for all children.” She added, “Charter schools encourage community and parental involvement and innovative teaching practices within the system of accountability for results in public education.”

Brant on the May School Referendums

Quicktime Video 25MB
MP3 Audio 4.8MB

Kirby Brant is President of local PAC Get Real (he’s also a former Watertown School Board member and was a candidate for the Madison School Board in 2002). Brant gives his views on:

  • the Madison School District’s budget process
  • The May Referendums
  • Madison’s per student spending vis a vis other Wisconsin communities and those in Iowa
I’m happy to post views from all players interested in the May 2005 referendums. Email me at zellmer at mailbag dot com if you’d like to post an interview.

Bersin & School Reform in San Diego

Frederick Hess:

Bersin’s departure provides an opportunity to ask what we have learned from his highly visible and often contentious tenure. To explore that question, and with the district’s full cooperation, last year I assembled a team of analysts to examine the San Diego reform push. For me, five key lessons emerged from their appraisal.
First, the centralized, “managed instruction” model of improvement depends critically on the presence of a personnel and managerial infrastructure and on quality curricula. Alvarado gave unstinting attention to his centerpiece “Institute for Learning” training program for principals and faculty, and to building a corps of “peer coaches” to assist teachers. But his single-minded focus on these activities resulted in a lack of attention to infrastructure and curricula. As a result, the coaches, the Institute, and attempts to assign faculty where needed most ran afoul of the collective bargaining agreement’s provisions on professional development, staffing, and teacher transfers. A balky human resources operation reliant on outdated technology inhibited district efforts to speed up hiring or promote more flexible staffing.

Continue reading Bersin & School Reform in San Diego

Bar Coding Your Child? – No thanks!

June Kronholz:

Suppose you are a fifth-year mechanical-engineering student at Cleveland State University, paying your tuition by taking off an occasional semester to work.
Is that any business of the federal government?
An idea circulating in the U.S. Department of Education and on Capitol Hill says that maybe it should be, and that maybe the government should follow students’ progress through college by assigning them bar codes.
Not surprisingly, that already is raising alarms. “What right does the government have to know that?” asks Katherine Haley Will, president of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., an outspoken critic of student tracking.

Simply Absurd…

Buchen: Madison Schools; Are We Getting our Money’s Worth?

James Buchen:

It will come as no surprise to weary taxpayers that Wisconsin hosts one of the most expensive public school systems in the country.
We rank 8th in per capita spending for elementary and secondary education. The seven states above us tend to be either high cost states like New York and Connecticut or states with very small populations like Alaska and Wyoming. Taxpayers shoulder this burden by paying high property taxes and high state income taxes. In fact, on average, 44 percent of the property tax bill goes to fund public schools and 40 percent of the state budget is devoted to funding for K-12 public education in Wisconsin.

Proposed Milwaukee Schools Budget: 1% Property Tax Increase

Alan Borsuk:

A year after laying a 13% property tax increase on the city, Milwaukee Public Schools officials are proposing a budget for next year that projects an increase of less than 1% in the amount to be collected in property taxes to pay for schools.
But a budget proposal for 2005-’06 that continues reforms launched by Superintendent William Andrekopoulos and contains no major new steps is based on two big assumptions: That Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s state budget proposal, calling for a shift of more school funding back to state government, will win approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature; and that the School Board and the administration will win an arbitration proceeding with Milwaukee’s teachers union that focuses largely on health insurance costs.
The MPS proposal was presented to board members late Tuesday. They are scheduled to spend the next month working on it.

Madison Schools Boundary Changes – More Discussion

Lee Sensenbrenner:

But several parents in an audience of about 50 said they have little hope that the May 24 referendum to build a new school will pass. Meanwhile, they said, school district officials need to reconsider their plans if the school isn’t built, and also, perhaps, consider alternative building plans.
…..
But she said the main reason she did not support the contract was because the administration provided board members only a few details from it.
“I would have a hard time approving an agreement unless I see it in writing,” said Kobza, who is an attorney. “Maybe it’s just the line of work I’m in.”

California Teacher Incentive Pay Plan

Developing incentive pay plans are a challenge. Gov. Schwarzenegger is pushing this in California. Dan Weintraub writes:

Everyone knows that our poorest kids tend to clump in schools that depend too much on inexperienced teachers, many of whom are still trying to find their way in the profession. We have good, experienced teachers who would teach in these schools if they were rewarded financially for their trouble – just as in every other profession, where the toughest-to-fill jobs normally earn higher pay. So who or what is standing in the way of the students who need better teachers getting those teachers? The teachers unions.

Continue reading California Teacher Incentive Pay Plan

Westport, CT: A Struggle over Special Education

Alison Leigh Cowan:

Special education is a hot topic here, with school board meetings exploding into shouting matches over what services children are entitled to under federal law and parents spending thousands of dollars on appeals to force the school district to provide those services for their children.

The parents say they have no choice: the district, one of the state’s most affluent, is fighting just as hard to hold the line on skyrocketing special education costs.

NYT: School Reform: How Fast, How Far?

Several interesting letters to the editor in Sunday’s NYT in response to this article: The Schools Under Bloomberg: Much Tumult, Mixed Results, including this comment:

Too many have held low expectations for Harlem’s children. We have a mayor who not only seems to care about reforming the schools, but also is holding himself accountable for raising the expectations of our children. While I do not agree with every single one of his reforms, I believe they should be given more time before they are dismissed.

Continue reading NYT: School Reform: How Fast, How Far?

LA Times: The Preschool-Tax Folly

The LA Times opposes Rob Reiner’s proposed “Universal Pre-School” scheme:

The last thing California needs right now is to raise another huge sum of money $2.3 billion a year to start that can’t be used to close existing gaps.
Reiner would do that with a higher tax on incomes of more than $400,000 a year. Last November, voters approved a poorly thought-out measure to tax million-dollar earners to fund mental health programs. The line of good causes calling out for a tax on the rich will only get longer.
This editorial page has advocated reinstating higher tax levels on top incomes, but only if the revenue is used to heal the crippled general fund, and only temporarily. With a healthier budget, the Legislature could have a rational discussion about funding more preschool.

Shook on School Funding

Dennis Shook:

Way back in the corners of our collective political consciousness I am beginning to sense that there is an answer beginning to form. It probably involves consolidating many school districts and putting in place some kind of insurance program that keeps employee costs under control on the expenditure side.
On the revenue side, it also seems we are all starting to become more aware that not every sector in our economy is pulling its weight. Most every comparative study of tax burden during the past few decades has seen a dramatic shift of the burden onto the individual property taxpayer and away from the business sector. There are also a lot of taxable entities that are not being taxed at all, like nonprofits and even fraternal and religious organizations.

via wisopinion.com

The Lesson: Minority Achievement in Two Milwaukee Schools

Mary Van de Kamp:A fascinating article in Milwaukee Magazine compares two elementary schools with black principals and low-income black students. At one school, students outperform the district’s white students; at the neighboring school, students do far worse.

Last year, 81 percent of Hawthorne�s black fourth-graders scored proficient or above in math and 79 percent proficient or above in reading, compared to 34 and 63 percent, respectively, at Thurston Woods…..

Continue reading The Lesson: Minority Achievement in Two Milwaukee Schools

EIA: Teachers Comprise 50.8% of All US K-12 Public Education Employees

Education Intelligence Agency posted this data from the US Census Bureau, US Dept of Education and the NEA. Take a look.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia employ more non-teachers than teachers. South Carolina ranks highest in the percentage of teacher employees at 65 percent, while Kentucky brings up the rear with classroom teachers making up only 42.6 percent of its public education workforce.

via joanne jacobs

Steve Stephenson: Broken school budget led to Kobza win

Dear Editor: As a parent of children at both Madison East High School and Sherman Middle School, I am thankful for the hard work and significant positive contributions that Lawrie Kobza and her husband, Peter, have made to both of these schools.
Perhaps those apprehensive at the election of Lawrie Kobza to the Madison School Board are concerned that it won’t be business as usual. Quite frankly, this is exactly why Lawrie now sits on the board. The easiest thing for a school board to do when facing a budget problem is to float a referendum to ask the voters for more money. This is similar to giving a drug addict a fix. It is only temporary and the real issues will still be waiting for you when the fix wears off.

Continue reading Steve Stephenson: Broken school budget led to Kobza win

Middle School Goes out of Fashion?

Anne Marie Chaker:

. . . a growing body of evidence is showing that preteen students do better when they can remain in their familiar elementary schools for longer — with better grades and fewer disciplinary problems than their middle-school peers.
. . . An early study tracked hundreds of middle-school-age students in Milwaukee public schools, comparing those who switched to a new school in grade seven with their counterparts in a K-8 school who didn’t have to make any switch. The research found that those who switched had more negative attitudes toward school and lower grades. Girls in particular didn’t recover in middle adolescence (grades nine and 10) when it came to self-esteem and participation in extracurricular activities.

Via Eduwonk & Joanne Jacobs

QEO: Good or Bad?

Ken Cole:

The perennial argument that the QEO has somehow �capped� teacher salaries just doesn�t square with the numbers because most districts voluntarily settle above the 3.8 percent total package, which includes both salary and benefits. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards database shows that total-package increases averaged about 4.5 percent in 2003-04 and 4.3 percent in 2004-05.

Stan Johnson:

Prior to the law change, arbitrators intervened in stalled negotiations and brought the sides together by analyzing such data as a local school district�s ability to pay, national and regional market forces, and comparable wages and benefits in the geographic area. Arbitration was the single most important factor accounting for the period of labor peace from the late 1970s to early 1990s.

What’s the QEO? via wisopinion

Capital Times Editorial on Kobza’s Win

4.11.2005 Capital Times Editorial:

Newcomer Lawrie Kobza surprised a lot of people with her win in Tuesday’s voting for the Madison School Board, which saw her upset incumbent Bill Clingan by a comfortable 53-47 percent margin.
Her win is being read as something of a municipal Rorschach test.
Some members of the current board majority, who vigorously opposed her candidacy, fear that Kobza will be another Ruth Robarts, the dissident board member who has angered her colleagues by picking fights on budget issues and accusing other board members of being rubber stamps for Superintendent Art Rainwater.

Great to see the Capital Times engaged….
UPDATE: Karyn Saemann on No School District, no sense of place; schools in Fitchurg.

Milwaukee Schools Update

Quite a bit happening in Milwaukee, according to Alan Borsuk.

The revolving door for urban school superintendents has been a major fact of life across the country. The general rule of thumb many use is that if you make it three years in the job, you’re doing better than average.
Andrekopoulos will reach the three-year mark in August. He has said from the start that he was committed to the job for five years, and he recently said he might want to make it six.
It is still going to be heavy going for him and everyone else involved in MPS. The budget decisions are going to be tough and the politics demanding. Change, as Andrekopoulos says, is hard.
Most important, the job of raising the level of educational success of children in the city overall is complicated and slow going, at best.
But the Goldberg election may prove over time to have been an important signal that Andrekopoulos will beat the urban superintendent challenge and get the five years or more that he wants. That is likely to make this the key question for the next several years: Will the policies he stands for work?

The 65% Solution?

George Will, writing from Phoenix:

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district’s education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.
Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction — Washington, D.C., of course — spends less than 50 percent.

Joanne Jacobs has a few comments.

Dave Burkhalter Named WEAC Executive Director

Via Wispolitics:

Daniel Burkhalter, who has been director of government relations for the Illinois Education Association since 1993, is the new executive director of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
The WEAC Board of Directors approved the appointment of Burkhalter Friday (April 8, 2005). He succeeds Michael A. Butera, who left in November to take a position with the National Education Association. WEAC Legal Counsel Bruce Meredith has been acting executive director.

Wispolitics. Clusty search

Hacker High School

The Hacker Highschool project is the development of license-free, security and privacy awareness teaching materials and back-end support for teachers of elementary, junior high, and high school students.
Today’s kids and teens are in a world with major communication and productivity channels open to them and they don’t have the knowledge to defend themselves against the fraud, identity theft, privacy leaks and other attacks made against them just for using the Internet. This is the reason for Hacker Highschool.

Teacher Union Agreements Around the USA

Madison Teachers, Inc. is currently bargaining with the Madison School District. The current agreement can be found here (167 page PDF). I ran some google searches and found the following teacher contracts online:

I’ll continue to add to this list, along with the new MMSD/Madison Teachers Agreement when it is available. MTI’s weekly Solidarity is well worth checking out, for another view into our schools.

Arts & Education: Milwaukee Ballet, Degas & Milwaukee Art Museum

I chanced upon a rather extraordinary afternoon recently at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Museum is currently featuring a Degas sculpture exhibition, including Little Dancer. Interestingly, several ballerinas from the Milwaukee Ballet were present. Children could sketch and participate. I took a few photos and added some music. The result is this movie. Enjoy!

School Administrator Sharing

Amanda Kramer:

Lake Mills Superintendent Dean Sanders will speak to the Johnson Creek School Board at the end of April about the possibility of the districts sharing a superintendent, a business manager and possibly a pupil services director.
The move might not only save money, but it could also avoid cuts to staff and services, he said. Sanders said both districts face financial challenges.
“We all have to look at ways of making our districts run, short of cutting programs and hurting kids,” Sanders said.

Madison C.A.R.E.S Presentation @ Thoreau PTO 4.12.2005

Mary Marcus forwarded this event notification: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 / 6:30 to 7:30p.m. @ Thoreau School PTO Meeting (Map & Driving Directions)

Guest Speakers Bill Keys and Arlene Silveria from Madison C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student).

Madison CARES (Citizens Acting Responsibly for Every Student) is an organization of citizens who are concerned about the future of the public schools and have come together in support on the 3 referenda that will be on the ballot in the Madison Metropolitan School District on 5/24. At the meeting, we will provide you with information on the 3 referenda questions and how they may affect your school. We will also introduce you to our organization. There will be time for questions and answers.

Madison C.A.R.E.S. background information

The Real Education Revolution?

Greg Beato:

In doing so, they overlook people like Joyce and Eric Burges, who are at the Valley Home Educators convention promoting their organization, the National Black Home Educators Resource Association. The Burgeses produce an annual symposium for African-American families in their home state of Louisiana, and Joyce Burges dreams of opening up a series of private learning centers where homeschooling parents can combine resources and offer instruction in a central location. In pursuit of this goal, Burges has reached out to local businesses and foundations, but few have responded so far. �We�re an upstart, grassroots organization,� she says, �so I�m asking businesses for anything that can help us get the word out that parental involvement in education is a viable way of ensuring that children do exceptionally well.�A lot of them say, �Yes, we sense your passion, but we can�t really do anything.��