All posts by Lucy Mathiak

John Nichols: Maya Cole’s no closet conservative

Capital Times, March 30, 2006
By John Nichols
Paul Wellstone has been dead for a long three years, and yet there is rarely a national political debate that does not cause me to think: What would Wellstone do?
The late Minnesota senator was an epic political figure, who fought not just against right-wing Republicans but against those in his own Democratic Party who would warp it into a pale reflection of the GOP. Wellstone’s willingness to challenge the accepted political “wisdom” of the moment often put him at odds with folks he expected or at least hoped would be his supporters.
Madison School Board candidate Maya Cole, a graduate of “Camp Wellstone,” the candidate training program developed by the former senator’s family and friends to train a new generation of rabble-rousing contenders, knows that feeling. She’s a passionate progressive who has poured her energies into struggles to stop the war in Iraq, reduce gun violence, defend voting rights, challenge racism and reorder economic priorities so that society will be more just.

Continue reading John Nichols: Maya Cole’s no closet conservative

MTI on Inclusion

For what it’s worth, this comes up when you Google for Madison and inclusion [pdf version]:
From a 1996 MTI document. Note the emphasis on appropriate support and funding, and the statement “MTI opposes the exclusive use of any full inclusion model.” Can anyone posting to this blog tell us whether this is still the MTI position (and I am not criticizing it) and what this means for the push to extend heterogeneous classrooms to all Madison Schools, as one of a parent noted in board testimony in early February?

  1. MTI believes that Inclusion exists when student(s) with disability(ies) attend age appropriate regular education class(es), with appropriate support and funding.
  2. MTI believes that Inclusion is one option in the full continuum of services and full range of delivery models available to students with disabilities as determined by the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
  3. MTI believes that Inclusion requires additional Federal and State funding. This funding is mandatory prior to the implementation of Inclusion and will continue for as long as this option exists.
  4. MTI believes that coordinated planning time for all educational employees involved is a requirement for successful Inclusion.
  5. MTI believes that the impact of Inclusion must be bargained.
  6. MTI believes that regular educators, special educators and support personnel must be involved as full partners in the planning for and implementation of Inclusion.
  7. MTI believes that inservice education for all educational employees involved in the implementation of Inclusion must be provided.
  8. MTI believes that modification in class size, scheduling, and curriculum design may be needed to accommodate the shifting demands that Inclusion creates.

Madison Teachers Inc. believes the prime consideration in the placement of all students should be the welfare of each student thereby requiring a full continuum of placement options. MTI opposes the exclusive use of any full inclusion model. Any decision concerning the placement of an exceptional student must be a majority opinion of those participating in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meeting. MTI further believes that adequate safeguards must be provided for the classroom teacher to ensure that a proper classroom atmosphere be maintained at all times.

Response to Betzinger et al on Heterogeneous Grouping

March 29, 2006
To the Editor of the Capital Times:
I read with interest the March 28 letter from Betzinger et al regarding heterogeneous grouping.
Using inflammatory “tracking” vs. “inclusion” rhetoric, the authors clearly misrepresent my position on the current debate, which was posted through the Isthmus on-line questions to candidates two weeks ago. I have stated my position in front of the board and in several forums attended by their group. I also have asked for dialogue with Barb Katz on more than one occasion and she has declined my request to learn more about her position.
Under the circumstances, I can only believe that the authors would prefer not to be confused by the record, which is:
Mathiak: Despite noble rhetoric in favor of this plan, I have deep reservations about the current push for “mixed ability grouping” (a.k.a. “heterogeneous grouping”). The district has failed to clarify whether the goal is to achieve a perfect demographic balance in each classroom or address the historic segregation of Madison’s advanced academic programs.
These are two very different objectives that would require different strategies to succeed.
Since 2000, the district has known that 27% of high school drop outs scored above the 84th percentile in the 5th grade math test; this group includes a large number of low income and minority students. If the district wanted to desegregate advanced academics it would require:

  • Early testing of all students to identify and nurture high ability students of color and low income students.
  • Reform of the middle school and high school guidance system to encourage rather than discourage advanced classes among students of color and low income students.
  • Creation of enough places in advanced classes to accommodate all students capable of success.

If the goal is to achieve a perfect population mix, we need to have a plan that meets the needs of all of the students in that mix. This means addressing several factors identified in successful models but which are not part of Madison’s current public school practice including:

  • The ability to control who attends the school and under what terms
  • The ability to require teachers to be trained in and to implement differentiated curriculum (one expert recently testified that this takes ten or more years to put in place).
  • Generous levels of in-stepping for students who are significantly above grade level.
  • Adequate numbers of support staff — social workers, psychologists, learning disabilities specialists, librarians, TAG specialists, and other core staff — to allow teachers to teach to all levels.

School Potlucks To Be Exempt From Restaurant Rules

You laugh, but the zeal to protect ourselves from our food has gotten the better of many well-intentioned people, and was challenging the ability of school groups to host potlucks. The original of this release is on-line at:


By unanimous vote the Wisconsin State Senate has concurred in Assembly Bill454, the “Potluck Liberation Bill”. The bill, authored by State Representative Barbara Gronemus, will exempt potluck events from the public health regulation of restaurants. The bill previously passed the State Assembly by a vote of 95-0.
According to Gronemus, “Assembly Bill 454 was introduced to correct a “state of confusion” between our law books and our state administrative codes on the subject of potlucks by creating an exception to the definition of “restaurant” for a potluck event in Wisconsin and defines the term “potluck event” events that meet the following criteria:
(1) attendees provide food and beverages to be shared and consumed at the event,
(2) no compensation is provided to any person who conducts or assists in providing the event or who provides food and beverages, and no compensation is paid by any person for consumption of food or beverages, and
(3) the event is sponsored is a church; religious, fraternal, youth, or patriotic organization of service club; civic organization; parent-teacher organization; senior citizen center or organization; or adult day care center.
In final comments on Senate passage of Assembly Bill 454, Gronemus stated, “To quote a major newspaper in our state, “Potlucks are as much a Wisconsin tradition as Packers tailgate parties and Friday Fish fries and are an old-old way for communities to come ogether, share food and trade hot dish recipes” and I am proud to have authored Assembly Bill 454 to being some common sense back to the area of potlucks and keep them alive and well as a means of social interaction between people and their recipes and their communities, and I am hopeful that Governor Doyle will sign it into law”.
In addition, Gronemus renewed her intent to sponsor a State Capitol Potluck in celebration of her efforts to protect and liberate them from over zealous government regulations.

Community Service Fund 80 — Can We Talk?

For full copies of this paper, including charts and citations, go to (html version):

A few weeks ago, Madison school board member Johnny Winston Jr. circulated a message that urged readers to support community organizations that had submitted grant proposals for funding under the district’s Community Service Fund (Fund 80). His message began:

“We have a great opportunity! On Monday March 6th, the Madison School Board will be considering four proposals for funding that have an opportunity to have a positive impact on the student achievement in our school district. These programs are community based after school and summer programming that can supplement students’ academic achievement in the Madison Metropolitan School District. These programs are not subject to the state imposed revenue limits.” (emphasis added)

After describing the programs that he proposes to fund, Mr. Winston portrays the issue as whether one is for or against community programs that enhance student achievement. At a minimum, he frames the issue to suggest that one cannot support school-community partnerships and question the district’s Community Service Fund (Fund 80), when he writes:

Please be aware that the school board and district are under attack from people who believe that programs such as these are “driving up their taxes.” This is simply not true! Community services funding is included in this year’s community services budget, but hasn’t been allocated.” (emphasis added)

Contrary to Mr. Winston’s assertions, it is very possible to support the intent of the proposed grants and still have serious reservations about Fund 80 and its uses. Indeed, the grants and services that he describes make up only a small portion of the annual expenditures from this source. Whether or not the proposals are approved is less important than the much-needed public discussion of how the Madison school district is using its Fund 80 resources and whether taxpayers agree that those uses are worth the increase in their property taxes. With projected growth from $5.4 million 2001-2002 to over $16 million in 2011, most of it from property taxes, it is our elected representatives’ responsibility to engage the community in discussion to approve or reject the board’s uses of this fund.
(For the full document, please go to one of the links listed at the beginning of this post.)

Senate, Assembly Democrats: Call for Timetable on School Funding Reform

Sen. Breske
Rep. Pope- Roberts
Rep. Toles
Rep. Lehman
Rep. Sherman
Assembly and Senate Democrats Want New Funding Formula by June of 2007
MADISON – A group of Democratic lawmakers unveiled a timeline for reworking the Wisconsin school funding formula at a Capitol news conference today. The school financing system has long been criticized for inequities that treat rural school districts unfairly. In addition a state Supreme Court ruling, Vincent v. Voight, has also directed the legislature to equalize the funding formula.

Continue reading Senate, Assembly Democrats: Call for Timetable on School Funding Reform

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Opinion Journal
Black Flight
The exodus to charter schools.

MINNEAPOLIS–Something momentous is happening here in the home of prairie populism: black flight. African-American families from the poorest neighborhoods are rapidly abandoning the district public schools, going to charter schools, and taking advantage of open enrollment at suburban public schools.
Today, just around half of students who live in the city attend its district public schools. As a result, Minneapolis schools are losing both raw numbers of students and “market share.” In 1999-2000, district enrollment was about 48,000; this year, it’s about 38,600. Enrollment projections predict only 33,400 in 2008. A decline in the number of families moving into the district accounts for part of the loss, as does the relocation of some minority families to inner-ring suburbs. Nevertheless, enrollments are relatively stable in the leafy, well-to-do enclave of southwest Minneapolis and the city’s white ethnic northeast. But in 2003-04, black enrollment was down 7.8%, or 1,565 students. In 2004-05, black enrollment dropped another 6%.

Continue reading

A Power Point You Will Actually WANT To See
Description from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
MONDAY, Feb. 20, 2006, 2:33 p.m.
Banding together: Waukesha students support music programs
Waukesha South High School band boosters have set to music their reasons for why band and orchestra should be saved from anticipated cuts in the next school year.
You can check out their multimedia presentation here. A sample: “Don’t let the community that gave us Les Paul end up with Less Music.”
The Waukesha School Board is considering $3 million worth of program and service cuts to balance its 2006-’07 budget. Among the cutbacks being contemplated is the elimination of three full-time music teachers, which would push back the start of elementary orchestra and band instruction by one year.
The board has a work session scheduled for Feb. 28. A final vote on program cuts is slated for the board’s March 8 meeting.
-By Amy Hetzner

Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force

Thanks for the link to the minutes of the October 31 meeting in the other thread. I found the document fascinating, and am posting it here (with the portion of the meeting devoted to expungement deleted for length reasons) for those who are following the equity task force. The discussion leading up to the charge is particularly interesting. The “continue reading” link will take you to the full minutes.

Continue reading Minutes from Board Meeting to Create the Equity Task Force

Prevailing Wisdom on Autism Questioned

From University Communications, UW-Madison

Experts question prevalent stereotypes about autism

February 20, 2006
by Paroma Basu
As theories about autism spread like wildfire in the media and the general public, a panel of autism experts will reflect on the validity of four widely held – and potentially inaccurate – assumptions about the developmental disability.
Drawing on the latest in autism research, a psychologist, an epidemiologist, a psychiatrist and a physician will critically assess widespread stereotypes about autism during a symposium entitled “Science of Autism,” at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
“With the surge in both scientists and society turning their attention toward autism, there comes responsibility,” says Morton Gernsbacher, a Vilas Research Professor of psychology at UW-Madison and the symposium’s chair and organizer. “It behooves us as scientists to distinguish uninformed stereotypes from scientific reality and to move beyond myths and misconceptions.”

Continue reading Prevailing Wisdom on Autism Questioned

Analysis critical of proposed constitutional revenue limits

The full text of the analysis is on-line in PDF format at:
From the UW-Madison on-line press releases:
Analysis critical of proposed constitutional revenue limits
February 14, 2006
by Dennis Chaptman
Proposed limits on the amount of revenue Wisconsin governments can collect would reduce public services, hamstring the state’s future economic growth, and diminish local control, according to an analysis by a UW-Madison economist.

Continue reading Analysis critical of proposed constitutional revenue limits

Thank you, Carol, for posting questions about the future of the Doyle Building

Dear Carol,
You raise several intriquing questions in your recent post on the Doyle Buildin. I look forward to you putting the future use/ownership of the Doyle building on a School Board agenda so that there can be full and public discussion of the costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages of a full range of proposals from no change to sale. Having read the various memos, I know that I would appreciate a full exploration of factual and verifiable information on what the move would mean.
A meaningful inquiry, with opportunity for respectful dialogue between an informed public – including developers, preservationists, and members of the university community – and an engaged board would go a long way toward vetting the issues related to continued ownership, use as a rental property, or sale.
I am confident that you will post the date when this will be on the board agenda to this and other sites so that we can all stay current with the discussion. Thank you so much for your interest in this intriguing question and for your interest in exploring alternative proposals and new ideas for handling district resources.
Lucy Mathiak

Response to “The Gap According to Black”

I think we need to be careful about what we assume when we are talking about students of color in the schools. The children of color in our schools include a growing number of children whose parents, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, are highly educated with degrees ranging from the BA/BS levels to PhD, law, and medical degrees. Many have attended schools or come from communities with high numbers of professionals of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, or American Indian heritage. As our businesses and higher educational institutions hire more diverse professionals, we will see more children of color from middle and upper income families.
Children of color with highly educated parents historically have had trouble getting access to advanced educational opportunities regardless of their academic preparation or ability. And we are seeing a concurrent relocation to private schools, suburbs, and other cities because the parents have every bit as high expectation for their children as any other parents.
We also need to take a look at ALL children – including low income and/or children of color – when we are planning for advanced academic opportunities and placement in our schools. According to an MMSD study a few years ago, a significant portion of our high school drop outs are African American males who tested at the high end of the scale at the elementary level.

MMSD Withdrawal/Did Not Graduate Student Data
(1995 – 1999)

When the District analyzed dropout data for this five year period, they identified four student profiles. One of these groups, it could be argued, would have benefited from appropriately challenging learning opportunities, opportunities which might have kept them engaged in school and enabled them to graduate.

Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved

This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:
• Grade 5 math scores 84.2 percentile
• Male 55%
• Low income 53%
• Minority 42%
• African American 31%
• Hispanic 6%
• Asian 5%
Group 1 dropouts (expressed as the % of total dropouts for that school)

High School
East 25.9%
La Follette 23.8%
Memorial 23.4%
West 32.4%

We all – including the Madison School Board – need to ask whether we are doing enough to identify and provide opportunities for gifted and talented youth among children of color or children from low income backgrounds. Then we need to create sufficient classes and class space to allow ALL children who are capable of succeeding access to the highest level of classes possible. Creating false shortages for advanced academics helps no one, from individual students to entire schools.
Many of our schools now enroll populations that are 40% – 60% students of color. To have advanced classses with only a few – if any – students drawn from this potential talent pool, defies the statistical odds for the population. We can change this if, as a school community, we have the will to do so and the courage to talk openly about our priorities, practices, and assumptions.

Board of Education Meetings and Agendas, week of January 9

This version includes the address/location of the joint insurance committee meeting on Wednesday.
Also, note that the agenda for the Board-Common Council Liaison meeting on Wed. night is of interest to the two attendance area task forces that are due to report in this month.
1:00 p.m. Madison Metropolitan School District/Madison Teachers Inc.
Joint Insurance Committee
1. Call to Order
2. Options regarding Health Insurance Benefits for Certain Madison School District Employees
3. Adjournment
Madison Teachers Inc.
Large Conference Room
821 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703
6:30 p.m. Special Meeting of the Madison School Board and the Memorial
and West Attendance Areas Demographics and Long Range Facility Needs Task
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:00 p.m. Common Council/Board of Education Liaison Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated November 16, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. New Developments/Growth in the City of Madison and Implications for
Madison Schools
5. Housing Patterns Impact on Student Enrollments in Madison Schools
6. Madison Schools with Declining Enrollments
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements

Preview of Doyle’s State of the State speech from The Wheeler Report, 1/6/06
MERRILL, WI — Gov. Doyle last night endorsed higher math and science requirements for high school graduation during a town hall meeting set up to preview his January 17 State of the State Message to the Legislature.
Doyle focused on education, health care and environmental proposals during the session. “I want to make sure every kid in Wisconsin gets a quality education,” he said, pointing to his vetoes in the current budget to restore twothirds funding for public schools. He said three years of science and three years of math should be required in Wisconsin high schools.

Continue reading Governor Supports Higher Math and Science Graduation Requirements


Or, What Is This Old Building Worth?

Photo of Washington Public Grade and Orthopedic School, 545 W. Dayton St., Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. To see where it is located, click here.
Complex problems require creative solutions. But what happens when innovative ideas don’t get serious consideration?
This fall, the Madison School Board assembled two task forces to propose solutions to the knotty problems of shifting enrollments and facility use in the East and West/Memorial High School attendance areas. The people tapped to serve on the task forces have put in long hours and, in the process, have come up with some creative options that go beyond the “standard” proposals to close schools and/or move boundaries. Unfortunately, at least one credible idea for fully using space in East side schools with low enrollments has been taken off the table.
The proposal definitely represents “new thinking.” Rather than closing schools that don’t have “enough students,” the proposal is to sell the Doyle administration building and relocate district administration to one or more of the under-enrolled schools on Madison’s East side.


Response to “This is Not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District”

This is an open response to Mary Battaglia and Larry Winkler’s posts on the data showing rising numbers of low income and minority students in the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I tend to agree with Larry Winkler’s take that the “low income” and “minority” data is more of a diversion from the larger discussion of standards and achievement in our schools. The district and board have presented data on low income and/or minority status (not synonymous) as if it is an explanation or an excuse for the low expecations and low achievement levels of portions of the district student body.
We need to rethink to how our schools and educational programs operate and are staffed if we are to achieve high educational standards during a time of demographic change. We are seeing changes that include more low income students, students of color, populations for whom English is a second language, and students of all backgrounds who face extraordinary challenges at home. We also are seeing more stress among students who are under extreme academic pressure at home and at school in ways that did not exist twenty years ago.
We don’t have the same populations that we had five or ten years ago. Why would expect to sustain high academic achievement without a discussion of whether we need to realign our human and financial resources in order to do so? (And I’m not talking about one-directional PowerPoint presentations that don’t get at the issues.)

Continue reading Response to “This is Not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District”

Virtual Schools – Cash Cow Dry???

Original URL:
No tide of cash from virtual schools
Online efforts aren’t the big revenue source many had foreseen
By AMY HETZNER, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 4, 2005
With a contract to open the first statewide virtual high school before them, the mood of the members of the Waukesha School Board at their January 2004 monthly meeting was effusive.
A cost simulation showed that the school – called iQ Academies at Wisconsin – could start generating as much as $1 million for the school district by the 2006-’07 school year.
School Board members gushed.
“Pretty sweet,” board member Daniel Warren said about the numbers.
A little more than a year into the iQ’s operation, however, the school has yet to come close to matching the board’s high hopes.

Continue reading Virtual Schools – Cash Cow Dry???

Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

The following story aired on Channel 3/9 a few weeks ago and was recently posted on the Channel 3000 web site. This story discusses the impact of cutbacks of in-school staff, in this case school nurses, and reflects a serious issue that affects all of our schools. I urge you to read the extended story, which includes data on the number of students with serious chronic medical conditions in our schools.
When I was growing up, the school nurse was the lady in sturdy shoes and white opaque stockings who administered hearing and vision exams. We avoided her like the plague.
Today’s school nurses are a far cry from what I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. They often are the primary health care providers for students. For students with chronic diseases, trained nurses are the key link between families and schools. In many of our schools, nurses provide gently used clothing – everything from underwear to mittens – for students who come to school without proper clothing, or who need emergency replacement clothing. They serve as de facto counselors for students who visit them with health problems that may come from stress at school or at home.
School Nursing Shortage Affects Madison Students
POSTED: 12:50 pm CST November 22, 2005
UPDATED: 10:30 am CST November 23, 2005
In the Madison School District, up to 700 kids a day need medical attention. But as News 3’s Dawn Stevens reported, sometimes the person taking care of them doesn’t have official medical training.

Continue reading Channel 3000 story on School Nurses

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Releases 2005-2006 General School Aids Amounts for Districts

November 17, 2005
TO: Members Wisconsin Legislature
FROM: Bob Lang, Director
SUBJECT: 2005-06 General School Aids Amounts for All School Districts
In response to requests from a number of legislators, this office has prepared information [PDF File] on the amount of general school aids to be received by each of the 426 school districts in 2005-06. This memorandum describes the three types of aid funded from the general school aids appropriation and the reductions made to general school aid eligibility related to the Milwaukee and Racine charter school program and the Milwaukee parental choice program. The attachment
provides data on each school district’s membership, equalized value, shared costs and general school aids payment, based on the October 15, 2005, equalization aid estimate prepared by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
Full document on-line here.

Dane County United Calls for Child Care Funding

More day care funding urged for low-income kids
By Pat Schneider, the Capital Times
November 17, 2005
Every kid deserves a piece of the pie.
That was the message Wednesday, when members of Dane County United joined with the Bright and Early Coalition to put out the message that more public money is needed to support quality child care programs for low-income families.
One half of Madison children enrolled in day care are in city-accredited programs, said Vernon Blackwell, a member of Dane County United, a grass-roots social justice advocacy group.

Continue reading Dane County United Calls for Child Care Funding

New Study on Inequality in School Readiness and Public Funding

New Fall 2005 study from the UW-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty:
“Inequality in children’s school readiness and public funding” was authored by a team that includes local assistant professor of social work Katherine Magnuson. It asks:

There are still many questions about children’s preschool experiences and the rise in public preschool funding. Has the substantial expansion of public funding made inroads into the disparities in preschool enrollment? How good are the various types of programs—are some forms of preschool higher in quality than others? How effective are they in remedying disadvantage—do poor children who attend preschool programs really enter school better prepared to learn? Do any advantages of preschool expe-rience fade over time?

The full document is available online in PDF format at:

More Studies Document Benefits of Early Childhood Education

Researchers Say Early Education Programs Pay Off

PDFs of Studies at:
POSTED: 1:38 pm CST November 2, 2005
UPDATED: 2:10 pm CST November 2, 2005
Two new studies suggest pre-K and Early Head Start programs benefit children — especially those from low-income families — in a variety of ways, including increased cognitive and language skills.
The first study looked at children who took part in pre-K programs — programs run by public schools and serving 4-year-olds.
Researchers said they documented benefits in several aspects of school readiness, including improvements in reading, writing and spelling abilities.
The study, conducted by Georgetown University researchers, found that disadvantaged children and Hispanic children benefited the most from pre-K programs.
Researchers studied 1, 567 pre-K 4-year-olds and 1, 461 children who had just completed one of the pre-K programs in Tulsa, Okla.
The second study, conducted by researchers at Princeton and Columbia University, looked at the benefits of Early Head Start programs that serve infants, toddlers and their families.
Full story at:

Board Votes to Create Equity Task Force

Schools to take closer look at equity
Task force could lead to budget war

By Matt Pommer, The Capital Times
November 1, 2005
The Madison School Board created an “equity” task force Monday, setting the stage for a possible budget war over programs like elementary school strings and foreign language instruction in middle schools.
President Carol Carstensen said the board had been “skirting difficult issues” in budget preparations.
The board has been in favor of equality and directing resources to the neediest population, but “we have not used our power to allocate resources to our neediest children,” she said.
The citizens task force was given a March 31 target date for a report, time enough to influence the development of the School Board’s 2006-07 budget. Twelve people – three from each high school attendance area – will be named to the task force.
In light of state budget controls, it becomes more difficult to fund program like strings and foreign language in middle school, Carstensen said.
Board member Juan Lopez said the School Board has been “responsive” to organized groups rather than focused on equity. For example, the strings program is important, but he asked, “Is it equitable? No.”
Groups may come to the board with a plea for an additional charter school, Lopez noted. That may not be equitable, but the board responds to a political push, he suggested.
Abha Thakkar, a member of the Northside Planning Council and the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition, urged the board to appoint the task force. She said in a “time of prosperity” it is easy to continue programs that help just some of the students in the district.
Helping the pupils from poor families is not just an east side or north side issue, she indicated. “It’s a districtwide issue,” she said, in urging adoption of the task force.
After the meeting, she told The Capital Times she was pleased by the creation of the task force. But she was most pleased at the lengthy board discussion before the vote.
“They finally fessed up to the issue,” she said.
Board member Lawrie Kobza said the equity issue was the reason she ran for the board. “Maybe it’s difficult to define equity,” she said.

Numbers on Arrests at MMSD School

Document Feed on the Isthmus web site has posted Jason Shepard’s recent column and data supplied by the school district:
Police and schools: By the numbers
Spreadsheets compiled from raw data showing police calls and arrests at Madison schools, 2004-2005

In the 2004-05 school year, police were summoned to Madison schools more than 1,500 times and made nearly 400 arrests, mostly of students. Recently Isthmus writer Jason Shepard went through raw data of police reports to compile spreadsheets of police calls and arrests, arranged by school. One resulting finding — that students of color account for a sharply disproportionate percentage of arrests — has stirred particular concern, a topic explored in Shepard’s column for the Oct. 21 edition of Isthmus. Included here is that column and three spreadsheets that provide cumulative data.

Data on AP Courses

The Department of Public Instruction web site includes data on AP courses offered going back to 1996-1997 through 2003-2004. (I apologize in advance for the long URL) The data is presented on statewide and individual district and school levels, which makes comparison possible:

The page also has a utility that allows comparisons between districts and schools using pre-defined sets (ex. Big Eight) or user choice.
The user will need to use the links to view data for individual subject areas (math, foreign languages, English, etc.). The menu pick for statewide data is in the left hand column of the page. If I read it correctly, the number of AP course offerings is going up across the state, down in the Madison Metropolitan School District. At least in English AP offerings.
I note that haven’t had time to do a thorough analysis and have some questions about the data, and encourage others to do the same. I believe that there is some useful information through this source.

Questions Regarding Tonight’s Equity Vote

In addition to Ruth’s blog, I would add the question of why this is being addressed in a “special” board meeting and not the regular meeting. (Sorry – it isn’t clear from the message that the district sent on Friday, and the link to the regular board agenda is not working). And, if there are documents available related to the vote, why they are not publicly available in a timely fashion.
To be honest, I missed the impact of the message that arrived Friday morning via e-mail, so thanks to Ruth for flaggin it:
5:00 p.m. Human Resources Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated February 7, 2005 and March 14, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Proposed Leave of Absence Policy for Administrators
5. Proposed Leave of Absence Agreement for Administrators
6. Other Business
There is no other business.
7. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
6:00 p.m. Special Board of Education Meeting
1. Approval of Minutes dated August 29, 2005
2. Public Appearances
3. Announcements
There are no announcements.
4. Equity Resource Formula
5. Board Policy 9001 – Equity
6. Proposed Equity Policy
7. Other Business
There is no other business.
8. Adjournment
Doyle Administration Bldg
Room 103
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
7:15 p.m. Regular Board of Education Meeting
Agenda of the Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
[NOTE: this link does not work]
Agenda may be picked up during business hours at the MMSD Public
Information Office, Room 100, Doyle Administration Bldg., 545 West Dayton
Street, Madison, WI 53703
Doyle Administration Bldg
McDaniels Auditorium
545 West Dayton Street
Madison WI 53703

PEOPLE, cont.

Joan, since you don’t allow response comments to your posts, I am forced to post here.
I’m sorry that I misread your editorial comments about what you imagine the PEOPLE program and its students to be about, to constitute a larger set of questions about fairness and access to UW-Madison. So, to keep it short and sweet, here are my responses to what I take to be your two primary questions:
1) Do I believe that students with a 2.75 GPA can succeed at Madisson?
Yes. I have first-hand experience with our undergraduate population and the people who serve them, probably more than you. There are studens with 2.75 GPAs and lower who do very well at Madison; there are students who come in with 3.5 and higher GPAs who founder. SOURCE: student service workers and admissions staff at UW-Madison.
2) Do I believe that the admissions rules should be bent for students who complete the PEOPLE program?
Yes, IF that is what is happening. The article says that students must maintain a MINIMUM 2.75 GPA to stay in the program; there is no information on the average GPA of PEOPLE students admitted to UW-Madison. As quoted in my previous post, the article clearly says that PEOPLE graduates who are unlikely to succeed are not admitted. As such, I must believe that there is some judicious application of admissions criteria in borderline cases.
That said, the University of Wisconsin System has a responsibility to prepare all of its students for the world they will inherit. That world is increasingly multi-ethnic, and all students’ employment options are very much linked to employer perceptions of whether those students are culturally competent to succeed in businesses with diverse staff and customer bases. Simply put, the future employment options of our students rest on our ability to recruit and retain a diverse student body. This becomes a factor on the side of giving students the benefit of the doubt in borderline admissions cases, and has little to do with whether those students ultimately succeed or fail.
On a personal note, I salute you and your accomplishments. I worked my way through UW-Madison from the age of 17, ending with an MA and PhD in history, at the time ranked fifth in the United States (minoring in sociology, ranking first in the United States)against private and public insitutions. I know that the curriculum is rigorous. I came into the graduate program with 26 students;there were 3 of us left after the MA level. As a grad student I was a tutor and a TA, and you are rightfully proud of your achievements. However, that does not entitle you to make uninformed assertions about what high school students who are working hard to prepare for higher education are or are not likely to achieve if admitted.

PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues

(With apologies to readers – it is not possible to respond using the comments feature on the blog.)
Response to Lucy’s Post on PEOPLE program
JOAN: Tempting though it is to rebut your arguments tit for tat I am not sure it will necessarily be productive.
RESPONSE: I would be interested in a “tit for tat” response to my comments on the reasons why the PEOPLE program is needed.
JOAN: Let’s back up and look at the assumptions underlying this program. The first is that minority students are not getting adequate preparation in their home schools. You assert that this is true in the well-staffed, well-funded Madison school district because of institutional racism. You believe your visual review of a school proves your point. That’s not particularily strong evidence.
RESPONSE: I think you need to go back and read what I wrote. I said,

“All of the above examples are conditions that I have witnessed first hand or, in one or two cases, have heard of from other parents – including parents of white students. When the above conditions disappear and/or white students experience these same conditions, we can talk about equity.”

Nowhere did I say or imply that my comments were “based on a visual review of a school.” It is true that there is no systematic, methodologically defensible, study of how students of color and their parents fare in Madison’s schools. I would welcome a well-crafted study of this nature.

Continue reading PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues


I was saddened and disappointed by the tone, content, and assumptions underlying Joan’s recent post on UW-Madison’s PEOPLE program and feel a need to respond as a parent who is engaged in trying to address cultures of racism in Madison schools and as a graduate and staff member of UW-Madison. I’ve interspersed the responses with Joan’s original wording:


Schools get $400M as gov signs budget
By David Callender
Capital Times, July 25, 2005
Gov. Jim Doyle was set to use his veto pen today to restore more than $400 million in new state funding for public schools that Republican lawmakers had cut from his proposed budget and to create a “responsible property tax freeze” for the next two years.
Under the Democratic governor’s plan, taxes for the owner of an average Wisconsin home valued at $150,000 would stay the same this year as last year, and would decline by $5 next year.
Doyle was scheduled to sign the new $53 billion state budget into law at a ceremony at the governor’s mansion this morning.
“The people of our state have asked us to do four things with this budget: cut spending, cut taxes, make education the priority and freeze property taxes. I’m pleased to say this budget does all four, and we kept the faith with Wisconsin families,” Doyle said in prepared remarks for the bill signing.

Continue reading Schools get $400M as gov signs budget

Milwaukee Public Schools Direct Instruction Study

Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Study shows that Direct Instruction is successful, particularly with hard to reach students. The study is on-line at
Education That Works in the Milwaukee Public Schools:
The Benefits from Phonics and Direct Instruction
by Sammis White, Ph.D.
A phonics-based teaching technique (Direct Instruction) is proving successful in some Milwaukee Public Schools. This study of 23,000 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students in the Milwaukee Public Schools showed that “among low-income students tracked between third and fourth grades 2002-03 to 2003-04, those with five years of Direct Instruction (DI) increased their math scores by 6.6% whereas non-low-income students increased their scores by 4.7%. This difference is statistically significant and is evidence of substantial progress.”
Direct Instruction in the Milwaukee Public Schools is creating real progress for hard-to-reach students.
* Students exposed to DI were even lower income, on average, than other MPS low-income students, but those individuals with long-term exposure to DI (defined as five years) did better, on average, than all low-income MPS students.
* In schools with DI in every grade and continuous professional development for the staff, students did even better, on average. Among low-income students, with a mix of regular and special education, students scored six points higher in reading and 25 points higher in math versus other low-income students. These differences suggest that with full implementation of DI at more schools, MPS would produce even greater academic gains.
The conclusions are less obvious from this article, but it is worth reading:
How best to teach reading?
Study of MPS students provides no clear answer
Posted: July 21, 2005
A controversial reading program called Direct Instruction is helping some Milwaukee Public Schools students, particularly those on the short end of the achievement gaps that are such an urgent issue here, a study of test scores of thousands of MPS students concludes.
But the comparison of students who have been in schools using the highly scripted program with those who haven’t been taught by that method leaves room for argument that the increasingly popular approach is not having much impact, at least not the way it is being done in many schools.
For the entire article go to:

Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Original URL:
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Does state’s method inflate graduation rate?
Wisconsin says 92% finish high school; report estimates 78% do

Posted: June 23, 2005
A new report lambastes states across the country for using flawed, and even “irrational,” methods of calculating graduation rates that ultimately dupe the public.
The report does not criticize Wisconsin as harshly as a few other states, such as North Carolina, but it does offer an alternative method of estimating graduation rates that would put Wisconsin’s rate at 78% for the 2000-’01 school year, 14 percentage points lower than the 92% rate reported for the 2002-’03 school year.
“Every year (states) report these literally preposterous numbers,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for disadvantaged students and released the report.
The report suggests that Wisconsin and many other states measure graduation rates in a manner that gives an overly rosy, distorted picture of the number of students who are actually finishing high school in the United States.

Continue reading Does Wisconsin’s method inflate graduation rate?

Dept of Admin June 21 Memo on per-student revenue
Date: June 21, 2005
To: Marc Marotta
From: David Schmiedicke
State Budget Director
Subject: School District Revenue Limits — REVISED
We have received a number of inquiries regarding the impact of the reduction to the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase made by the Joint Committee on Finance (JCF’) in its version of the 2005-07 biennial budget bill (AB 100). As you know, Governor Doyle’s budget recommendations retained the current law allowable increase, which is last year’s allowable increase plus increase in the consumer price
Under current law, the increases are estimated to be $248.48 per pupil in FY2005-06 and $252 in FY2006-07. The JCF version of the budget reduces those increases to $120 per pupil in FY06 and $100 in FY2006-07. For the biennium, this represents a reduction of an estimated $352 million in school district revenues compared to current
On a percentage basis, current law and the Governor’s proposal would provide the average district with per pupil revenue increases of approximately 2.9% in each year (over the state average base revenue per pupil of $8,415 for FY05). Under the JCF version of the budget, the allowable increase would be reduced to 1.4% in FY06 and 1.2% in FY07.
The net increase in school district revenue limits after the JCF reductions to current law can also be compared with the increase in the all-funds state budget adopted by JCF. Compared with the fiscal year 2004-05 base of $24.9 billion, the JCF budget increases all funds spending over the prior year by 5.0% in fiscal year 2005-06 and 2.4% in fiscal year 2006-07. The increase to general fund spending in the JCF budget over the fiscal year 2004-05 base of $12.0 billion is 7.7% in fiscal year 2005-06 and 2.6% in fiscal year 2006-07 over the prior year.

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memo on Proposed Changes to Revenue Limits for School Districts

This June 20, 2005 document is on-line in PDF format at:
In response to a number of legislative inquiries, this memorandum provides information on
the potential changes to revenue limits for school districts, compared to the 2004-05 base year,
under AB 100 as proposed by the Governor and the Joint Finance version of the budget.
Under the Joint Finance provisions, the per pupil adjustment would be set at $120 in 2005-06
and $100 in 2006-07 and thereafter, compared to an estimated $248 and $252, respectively, under
current law and AB 100. Under the Joint Finance provisions, the low-revenue ceiling would be
increased from the current law $7,800 in 2004-05 to $8,100 in 2005-06 and $8,400 in 2006-07,
identical to AB 100.
The attachments present information to illustrate the possible revenue limit changes under
AB 100 and the Joint Finance provisions compared to the 2004-05 base year.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on WI Budget Debate over Funding Public K-12 Schools

How far can schools stretch their dollars?
Education funding is central to budget debate in Madison

By ALAN J. BORSUK and AMY HETZNER, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: June 18, 2005
Let’s say your parents base your budget for gasoline for the year on $1.75 a gallon.
The next year, Mom and Dad say, we’re increasing your allowance to cover $2 a gallon.
But gas now costs $2.30.
54987School Funding
There has to be more of a middle ground here that I would challenge both parties to deal with. They’re not serving the state very well with this kind of polarization.
Have your folks given you an increase? Of course. A big one, if you look at the percentage.
Have they given you a decrease? Of course. There’s no way you’re going to be able to drive as far you did last year with less gasoline.
Welcome to the intense, real and genuinely important debate over state funding of education for the next two years.
Here’s a two-sentence summary of an issue likely to dominate the Capitol for the next few weeks as the state budget comes to a head:
Republican leaders are saying the increase in education funding for the next two years, approved by the Joint Finance Committee and heading toward approval by the Legislature itself, calls for $458 million more for kindergarten through 12th-grade education for the next two years, a large increase that taxpayers can afford.
Democrats and a huge chorus of superintendents, teachers and school board members around the state are protesting, saying that the increase will mean large cuts in the number of teachers and the levels of service for children because it doesn’t contain enough fuel to drive the educational system the same distance as before.

Continue reading Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on WI Budget Debate over Funding Public K-12 Schools

June 17 MMSD Asks PTOs and Presumably Parents to Contact Legislators

For Legislative Fiscal Bureau policy papers and membership lists of relevant committees, go to:
If you have already received this Update, our apologies. We are trying to inform parents about this important budget issue before the Legislature votes next week.
Dear PTO/A Leaders:
The attached information outlines changes Republican leaders made to Gov. Doyle’s budget. Please take a moment to call Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz and Assembly Speaker John Gard (contact information in news update) to express your opposition to cutting back on the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase. Gov. Doyle’s budget allows a $248 per pupil increase for next school year, the GOP plan, $120 (would require an additional $3.1 million cut to the budget BEFORE it is finalized this October); for the 06-07 school year, the Gov. allows an increase of $252 per pupil, the GOP plan $100 per pupil (would require MMSD to cut $6.9 million in 06-07).

Continue reading June 17 MMSD Asks PTOs and Presumably Parents to Contact Legislators

Yes, Change IS Hard

Q: How many board members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: “WHAT!!?!?! CHANGE?” they gasp in horror
No one is going to win as long as there is a divide between the board and the community. It would be great if it were as easy as “we need to educate people,” or, “we need to reach more people,” to pass a referendum as Carol Carstensen has suggested. But that does not appear to be the case.
The issue is not educating, it is persuading people that the board’s strategies are the best options. That cannot be done until all options are on the table with accurate, verifiable, comparative costs and impacts presented so that people can join the board and the administration in supporting its strategies.
This has not happened and, based on the last school board election and the referendum votes, more mailings and radio ads with the same positions is not likely to get more support for the board or its choices.
Using committee meetings to denounce members of the board and citizens who care enough to come to meetings as enemies of public education is not a step forward, either. Particularly when the bashing is based on assumptions rather than fact, as in Juan Lopez’s decision to bash Barb Schrank. Apparently Mr. Lopez was unaware that Barb voted yes on all three questions AND openly urged others to do so. Just how does attacking her publicly win him support for his stated cause?

Continue reading Yes, Change IS Hard

Art Attack at Lapham School

From The Capital Times, Monday, June 6

Changes coming in music, art classes
The arts hit hardest in teacher layoffs

By Cristina Daglas
June 6, 2005
Lapham Elementary School music teacher Lynn Najem and art teacher Sally Behr will keep their jobs next year, but their classrooms won’t be what they have been.
Next year, both Behr and Najem will be teaching classes of approximately 22 students in comparison to the previous 15.
The total number of students they teach is not increasing, but the number of classes offered is decreasing. The approximately 230 kindergarten through second-grade students at Lapham will remain the same.
“They think of us as fancy recess … a holding tank,” Najem said. “This is typical of the School Board.”

Continue reading Art Attack at Lapham School

East High United – June 2 meeting outcomes

Madison East High School parents, staff, and community members have been working since the beginning of 2005 to create an advocacy and support organization for this key East side school. The group was named at the June 2 meeting:
A parent-teacher-staff-student-community organization
The organization meets as a whole in the East High School cafeteria on the second Thursday of each month. (There is no July meeting, the next meeting is August 11).
In addition, working groups focussed on specific initiatives meet at a time agreed upon by members of those groups. A list of existing and emerging working groups is contained in this report from the June 2 meeting.

Continue reading East High United – June 2 meeting outcomes

Study spells out new evidence for roots of dyslexia

Study spells out new evidence for roots of dyslexia
(Posted by University Communications: 5/31/2005)
Report of newly released research by Mark Seidenberg and colleagues.
Addressing a persistent debate in the field of dyslexia research, scientists at UW-Madison and the University of Southern California (USC) have disproved the popular theory that deficits in certain visual processes cause the spelling and reading woes commonly suffered by people with dyslexia.
Rather, a more general problem in basic sensory perception may be at the root of the learning disorder, the scientists reported May 29 in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The work suggests new ways to identify dyslexics and to assess the many unevaluated techniques teachers use to help dyslexics in the classroom.
For the full press release, go to:

American Association for the Advancement of Science Report on Math and Science Learning

New AAAS Report Explores How Schools Improve Math and Science Learning
A System of Solutions: Every School, Every Student
Ten U.S. school districts have achieved significant improvement in science and mathematics performance by developing ambitious programs that set high standards and then closely tracking what works and what doesn’t work in helping students learn, according to a new AAAS report.
The 22-page report, “A System of Solutions: Every School, Every Student,” identifies 10 U.S. K-12 school districts, serving some of the nation’s major inner-city areas, and discusses the systemic practices that helped them improve student performance and close the gap between minority and non-minority students.
U.S. school districts examined as part of the AAAS report are: Atlanta; Boston; Brownsville, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego.
The 22-page report was commissioned by the GE Foundation and is available on-line here

East High Principal Search

Late Monday afternoon, the school district finalized the search committee for the East High principal. The committee met Tuesday night for orientation, and I believe that the interviews will start next Monday, May 1.
As Mr. Rathert reported at the April 14 meeting of the new parent/staff/school community organization, there are 8 candidates who will be interviewed. The district typically doesn’t release the names until the field is narrowed to the finalists, so the names of the eight candidates are not available at this time.
It is likely that the new parent/staff/school community organization’s May 12 meeting (7:00, East High cafeteria) will focus on the search, results if any, and ways that the East High community can participate in the transition process.
According to Bob Nadler, head of Human Resources for the district, the committee members are:
Parents: Kymberli Crowder, Larry Riechers, Cynthia Walton-Jackson
Staff: Scott Eckel, Sara Krauskopf, Jen Simpson
Administrators: Ed Holmes, Mary Ramberg, Ted Szalkowski [Note: in the past the other three high school principals have served on the committee, but apparently there are reasons why that didn’t work this time.]
Students: Two students applied

Addressing Racial Issues in School Discipline

In 2000, The Justice Matters Institute Discipline Task Force published a report called Turning TO Each Other Not ON Each Other: How School Communities Prevent Racial Bias in School Discipline.” The report provides helpful insights and resources for people who are concerned about creating more effective and equitable approaches to discipline in our schools.
That report is available in PDF form at:

Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts

Capital Times April 15, 2005
Full article at:
Teachers fight possible bilingual education cuts
By Lee Sensenbrenner
April 15, 2005
Bilingual teachers who are helping students in the Madison Metropolitan School District to learn English are organizing against a proposed cut to their department.
Threatened with losing eight positions if a May 24 operating budget referendum for $7.4 million is unsuccessful, the teachers said in an open letter Thursday that the cut would take away much of their ability to help mainly Spanish speaking elementary students who are struggling to keep up.
As laid out in the administration’s $7.4 million list of proposed cuts, dropping 8.4 bilingual resource teachers would save $425,880. This would take away one of two teachers in the elementary classrooms where the positions would be lost.

Senator Kanavas Requests Audit of Waukesha School District

Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) has asked the Legislative Audit Bureau to audit the Waukesha School District’s use of “community service funds” (called “Fund 80” by Madison Metropolitan School District) to finance high school pool project.
The following article from the April 15 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel includes a larger discussion about how funds are being used in other Milwaukee-area communities and whether those uses conform to state law.

Continue reading Senator Kanavas Requests Audit of Waukesha School District

Press Release and List of Members of DPI Task Force on High Schools

Burmaster announces High School Task Force members
MADISON�State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster released a list of the members of the State
Superintendent�s High School Task Force.
The group, co-chaired by JoAnne Brandes, executive vice president, chief administrative officer,
and general counsel for Johnson Diversey Inc., and Ryan Champeau, principal of Waukesha North High
School, will hold its next meeting May 3 at the Sheraton Madison Hotel. It will look at various local
initiatives aimed at redesigning or transforming the high school experience, enhancing student learning
and engagement, and strengthening the alignment of high school with postsecondary education and
workforce needs.
Madison Participants include:
Katie Arnesen of Madison
Steve Hartley, Director of Alternative Programs
Madison Metropolitan School District
Michael Meissen, Principal
LaFollette High School, Madison
Kendra Parks, Teacher
Memorial High School, Madison
The press release and a list of the members of the task force is on-line at:

News and Update on Initiative to Form a PTO at East High School

Please share this information with others who may be interested in helping to
create a revitalized PTO at East.
March 30, 2005
Upcoming meetings:
Thursday, April 14
Thursday, May 12
All meetings are held at East High School and begin at 7 p.m., with time for
informal conversation from 6:30 to 7:00.

Continue reading News and Update on Initiative to Form a PTO at East High School

April 9 – UW-Madison Science Program for 6-12 grade students

From University Communications:
Event to celebrate women in science
(Posted: 3/16/2005)
The Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL) on Saturday, April 9, will present “Celebrating Women of Science,” a daylong event that will feature talks by several prominent researchers, followed by hands-on science activities for teenagers and young adults.
WISL is a project of the chemistry department.
Scientists, including Laura Kiessling, Wendy Crone, Ann Kelley, Judith Burstyn and Gelsomina de Stasio, will speak on topics ranging from cancer to carbohydrates to the neural basis of eating. Chancellor John D. Wiley will make opening remarks.
Following the morning presentations, college, high-school and middle-school students can participate in any of eight hands-on science sessions. Among the activities, students can peer through a scanning electron microscope, handle live microbes or build working batteries on their own.
“Celebrating Women of Science” will take place in from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on April 9 in Room 1315, Chemistry Building, 1101 University Ave. The event is free, but registration is required by Friday, April 1, for the hands-on sessions. To obtain a registration form, visit or call (608) 263-2424.

Read My Blog: Year Old But Still Good Thoughts On The Budget

I started attending meetings several years ago and, initially, was naive enough to take Carol Carstensen at her word when she said “if you don’t like our cuts, you need to tell us where to cut.” Board members then claim that they “have no choice” and that critics “only criticize but don’t offer solutions.” This is one disingenuous ploy, since it invites people to participate but leaves the door open for the board’s typical response: we know more than you do and we don’t like your ideas. This is not listening.
I was looking through some old records the other day, and found the following message that I sent to the board over a year ago:

Continue reading Read My Blog: Year Old But Still Good Thoughts On The Budget

Leopold Expansion – Trust but verify

There has been a good deal of debate over suggestions that the proposed plans to add a second building to the Leopold School site would create a “megaschool” of undesirable proportions. Arguing that ‘everyone’ knew that the physically linked (MMSD calls it ‘paired’) schools would have a combined enrollment of more than 1100 students, proponents of the administration’s plan are confident that a school this size would have no additional challenges or needs. The idea that the addition should be built but for a smaller number of students is considered heresy by those who fear critical assessment of administration ideas.
Anyone who is interested in the debate – pro, con, apathetic – will benefit from taking a close look at the schematics for the addition, which are available on-line at:
Of particular interest is the size/layout of the cafeteria(s) [one room separated by a folding divider], the number of ESL class rooms for a school that can be expected to have 250 – 300 ESL students, and the size/location of the playground space, parking lots, and school bus drop off/pick up locations.

State Aims to Remake High Schools

Brian Tumulty on the achievement gap:

Wisconsin needs to boost graduation rates among blacks and other minorities, the state superintendent of instruction said Sunday as a two-day national summit on the future of high schools ended here.
�We have an achievement gap and we need to ensure every child is graduating from high school,� Elizabeth Burmaster said. �That�s the issue.�
Although Wisconsin boasts one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation � 92 percent overall in 2002-2003 � only 63 percent of blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of American Indians complete high school in four years.

Ford Foundation K-12 Links (Winter Report)

Several interesting items from the Ford Foundation’s Winter 2005 K-12 Report:

  • Dallas public schools are boosting student achievement by integrating arts into the curriculum.
  • In West Virginia and across the country, rural communities are fighting the supersizing of public schools.
  • BOOK REVIEW: School Champion
    A consensus has grown over the last 20 years that for sustainable school reform to occur, the public?not just parents?must be engaged, as instigators of change and as watchdogs to ensure that reforms are put into practice.

Another interesting link: The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is a statewide education advocacy organization. We work to improve education for all Kentuckians.

Organizing for Adequacy

Tom Beebe writes:

Wisconsin�s public school system is arguably the most important component
of our high quality of life. It has historically been part of the �village�
that raises intelligent, motivated, and successful participants in both
public and economic life.
The quality we have known for decades, however, is under siege. Unless we
act soon to change the way we fund public education, more schools will
close, school districts will begin to disappear, communities will wither,
and our children will lose sight of the future we promised them.

Continue reading Organizing for Adequacy