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It’s the single most famous story of scientific discovery: in 1666, Isaac Newton was walking in his garden outside Cambridge, England – he was avoiding the city because of the plague – when he saw an apple fall from a tree. The fruit fell straight to the earth, as if tugged by an invisible force. (Subsequent versions of the story had the apple hitting Newton on the head.) This mundane observation led Newton to devise the concept of universal gravitation, which explained everything from the falling apple to the orbit of the moon.
There is something appealing about such narratives. They reduce the scientific process to a sudden epiphany: There is no sweat or toil, just a new idea, produced by a genius. Everybody knows that things fall – it took Newton to explain why.
Unfortunately, the story of the apple is almost certainly false; Voltaire probably made it up. Even if Newton started thinking about gravity in 1666, it took him years of painstaking work before he understood it. He filled entire vellum notebooks with his scribbles and spent weeks recording the exact movements of a pendulum. (It made, on average, 1,512 ticks per hour.) The discovery of gravity, in other words, wasn’t a flash of insight – it required decades of effort, which is one of the reasons Newton didn’t publish his theory until 1687, in the “Principia.
1) A final reminder to please join me (Wednesday) at the REACH Awards Day from 10-12:30 at the Chase branch on 39th and Broadway (see full invite at the end of this email).
REACH (Rewarding Achievement; www.reachnyc.org) is a pay-for-performance initiative that aims to improve the college readiness of low-income students at 31 inner-city high schools in New York by rewarding them with up to $1,000 for each Advanced Placement exam they pass. I founded it, with funding from the Pershing Square Foundation and support from the Council of Urban Professionals.
This past year was the first full year of the program and I’m delighted to report very substantial gains in the overall number of students passing AP exams at the 31 schools, and an even bigger gain among African-American and Latino students (exact numbers will be released at the event). As a result, more than 1,200 student have earned nearly $1 MILLION in REACH Scholar Awards! (An additional $500,000 or so is going to their schools and educators.) Tomorrow the students will come to pick up their checks, Joel Klein will be the highlight of the press conference at 11am, and there will be a ton of media. I hope to see you there! You can RSVP to REACH@nycup.org.
2) A spot-on editorial in yesterday’s WSJ, which underscores the point I’ve been making for a long time: one shouldn’t get angry with unions for advancing the interests of their members — that’s what they’re supposed to do! — but it’s critical to understand that their interests and what’s best for children are often FAR apart… Pay Your Teachers Well Their children’s hell will slowly go by.
The conflicting interests of teachers unions and students is an underreported education story, so we thought we’d highlight two recent stories in Baltimore and New York City that illustrate the problem.
The Ujima Village Academy is one of the best public schools in Baltimore and all of Maryland. Students at the charter middle school are primarily low-income minorities; 98% are black and 84% qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. Yet Ujima Village students regularly outperform the top-flight suburban schools on state tests. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, Ujima Village students earned the highest eighth-grade math scores in Maryland. Started in 2002, the school has met or exceeded state academic standards every year–a rarity in a city that boasts one of the lowest-performing school districts in the country.
Ujima Village is part of the KIPP network of charter schools, which now extends to 19 states and Washington, D.C. KIPP excels at raising academic achievement among disadvantaged children who often arrive two or three grade-levels behind in reading and math. KIPP educators cite longer school days and a longer school year as crucial to their success. At KIPP schools, kids start as early as 7:30 a.m., stay as late as 5 p.m., and attend school every other Saturday and three weeks in the summer.
However, Maryland’s charter law requires teachers to be part of the union. And the Baltimore Teachers Union is demanding that the charter school pay its teachers 33% more than other city teachers, an amount that the school says it can’t afford. Ujima Village teachers are already paid 18% above the union salary scale, reflecting the extra hours they work. To meet the union demands, the school recently told the Baltimore Sun that it has staggered staff starting times, shortened the school day, canceled Saturday classes and laid off staffers who worked with struggling students. For teachers unions, this outcome is a victory; how it affects the quality of public education in Baltimore is beside the point.
Meanwhile, in New York City, some public schools have raised money from parents to hire teaching assistants. Last year, the United Federation of Teachers filed a grievance about the hiring, and city education officials recently ordered an end to the practice. “It’s hurting our union members,” said a UFT spokesman, even though it’s helping kids and saving taxpayers money. The aides typically earned from $12 to $15 an hour. Their unionized equivalents cost as much as $23 an hour, plus benefits.
“School administrators said that hiring union members not only would cost more, but would also probably bring in people with less experience,” reported the New York Times. Many of the teaching assistants hired directly by schools had graduate degrees in education and state teaching licenses, while the typical unionized aide lacks a four-year degree.
The actions of the teachers unions in both Baltimore and New York make sense from their perspective. Unions exist to advance the interests of their members. The problem is that unions present themselves as student advocates while pushing education policies that work for their members even if they leave kids worse off. Until school choice puts more money and power in the hands of parents, public education will continue to put teachers ahead of students.
Continue reading REACH day Wednesday; Pay Your Teachers Well; NO MORE ‘SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER’; comment; A New School Leader in New York; Dollars for Schools; A DC Schools Awakening; Bronx Principal’s Tough Love Gets Results; TFA Young Professionals event
The Capital City HUES is proud to present the fourth annual HUES Row of Excellence. This honor is bestowed on seniors of color graduating with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above.
Read more at http://www.capitalcityhues.com/052809RowofExcellence1.html
Congratulations to these fine young scholars!!! We wish you well as you follow your dreams.
The Supreme Court will consider a question this week that has riled parents, cost local school boards here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars, and vexed the justices themselves: When must public school officials pay for private schooling for children with special needs?
The issue has emerged as one of the fastest-growing components of local education budgets, threatening to “seriously deplete public education funds,” which would then detract from the care of students with disabilities who remain in the system, according to a brief filed by the nation’s urban school districts.
It has also become one of the most emotional and litigious disagreements between frazzled parents and financially strapped school officials, with the battles often ending in court. District of Columbia schools allocated $7.5 million of this year’s $783 million budget just for such legal costs.
Parents who want to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts are taking their case to the State House. More than 500 people are expected at a rally Wednesday to urge Governor Deval Patrick and state lawmakers to allow more charter schools. The state has 61 charter schools. Advocates say the schools do a better job of teaching children and engaging parents, and offer a necessary alternative to failing schools. Teacher unions oppose the schools. Patrick has long opposed lifting a cap on the number of charter schools, though this year, he has proposed lifting the cap in underperforming districts.
William Fitzhugh, Editor of Concord Review. Varsity Academics®
The video of this presentation is about 1 1/2 hours long. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download. MP3 Audio is available here.
We are pleased to have William Fitzhugh, Editor of The Concord Review, present this lecture on history research and publication of original papers by high school students.
From an interview with Education News, William Fitzhugh summarizes some items from his Madison presentation:
“A group of professors, teachers, business people, lawyers and community people invited me to speak at the University of Wisconsin in Madison about the work of The Concord Review since 1987, and about the problems of college readiness and academic writing for high school students.
The Boston Public Schools just reported that 67% of the graduating class of 2000 who had gone on to higher education had failed to earn a certificate, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree by 2008. Also, the Strong American Schools program just reported that more than a million of our high school graduates are in remedial education in college each year.
I recommend their report: Diploma to Nowhere, which came out last summer. While many foundations, such as Gates, and others, have focused on getting our students into college, too little attention has been paid to how few are ready for college work and how many drop out without any degree.
In Madison I also had a chance to speak about the huge imbalance in our attention to scholars and athletes at the high school level. I had recently seen a nationally televised high school football game in which, at breaks in the action, an athlete would come to the sidelines, and announce, to the national audience, which college he had decided to “sign” with. This is a far cry from what happens for high school scholars. High school coaches get a lot of attention for their best athletes, but if the coach also happens to be a history teacher, he or she will hear nothing from a college in the way of interest in his or her most outstanding history student.
The Madison Metropolitan School District has announced that the school portion of the local property tax will be lower than anticipated in 2008-09.
The drop in the rate translates to an anticipated savings of $67.50 in 2008-09 for a home assessed at $250,000.
“What this means is that property tax rates will be lower because the overall district property values have increased more than we originally expected, while building the 2008-09 budget estimates,” according to Superintendent Dan Nerad.
“The referendum on November 4, 2008 is still necessary to avoid $8.1 million of reductions to direct programs to students within the classroom for the 2009-10 school year,” according to Nerad. “This positive news simply reduces the school portion of individual property tax bills beginning in the 2008 tax year. The Madison School District would still need permission to go above state imposed revenue limits on property tax increases to meet increasing annual expenditures such as utilities, transportation, and employee compensation increases guided by state law.”
With a successful passage of a referendum on November 4, 2008 the Madison School District is committed to creating efficiencies or reducing services by $3.1 million in the 2009-10 school year. This will be accomplished by planned cost saving measures and further financial strategies that will have the least impact on learning in the classroom.
Under the current funding formula in Wisconsin, the property tax levy is set by a state law referred to as the revenue limit formula. The total levy for the 2008-09 school year was approved to increase by $6,039,802 or 2.74% over the prior year. Due to property values increasing at a higher rate than expected, residents within the school district boundaries will see a direct benefit as the property tax bill into the future. With a successful referendum passage for a home valued at $250,000 in 2007-08 the total property tax bill is projected to increase $22 by the 2011-12 school year.
This chart shows the estimated tax impact to owners of a $250,000 in 2007 from 2007-08 through 2011-12.
Estimated school tax rate 2007-08 to 2011-12
Year Tax Rate Tax Bill
2007-08 $10.08 $2,520.00
2008-09 $ 9.81 $2,452.50
2009-10 $ 9.92* $2,480.00*
2010-11 $ 9.70* $2,522.00*
2011-12 $ 9.40* $2,542.00*
*These amounts are estimates
Original estimate of property value increase in 2008 for Madison area property values was 4%
Actual increase in property value in 2008 for Madison area property values was 5.60% (SOURCE: WI Department of Revenue)
The Capital Times — 10/27/2008 4:31 am
As elected officials, we work hard to make Madison and Fitchburg the best places in the country.
The foundation of our vibrant community is our public schools. Our kids and schools need our support this fall. We urge you to vote for the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4.
Talented professionals, the people who start and build new businesses, don’t do it in a vacuum. They choose communities with the resources for a good life, as well as a good business. First among those resources is quality schools.
Schools in Madison and across Wisconsin are suffering from state-imposed cuts in funding. Some public schools are literally on the verge of bankruptcy. Madison schools have cut programs and services by over $60 million since 1993, when the restrictions began. Every year it’s harder and harder to provide our children the education they need and deserve.
The long-term solution lies with the Wisconsin Legislature. But until there’s a majority working toward a solution, we have to protect our kids.
The Nov. 4 proposal will increase taxes by about $28 on a $250,000 home in 2009, $43 in 2010, and $21 in 2011. The school district’s Web site has details: www.madison.k12.wi.us.
For that investment, we’ll maintain smaller class sizes, keep first rate teachers, help our special needs kids, keep up with basic maintenance — and much more. This referendum is very reasonable. The increase in taxes is modest. The commitment to our kids is enormous.
In America, every child deserves a chance to succeed — not just the rich. Public schools make the American dream a reality.
Join us by voting YES on the Madison schools referendum on Nov 4!
Madison School Board: Arlene Silveira, Ed Hughes, Lucy Mathiak, Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman, Johnny Winston Jr.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz
Madison Alders: Brenda Konkel, Mike Verveer, Robbie Webber, Marsha Rummel, Eli Judge, Brian Solomon, Tim Gruber, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Julia Kerr, Tim Bruer, Larry Palm, Judy Compton, Joe Clausius, Mark Clear
Fitchburg Alders: Roger Tesch, Bill Horns, Steve Arnold
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk
Dane County Supervisors: Scott McDonell, Barbara Vedder, Brett Hulsey, Wyndham Manning, John Hendrick, Matt Veldran, Carousel Andrea Bayrd, Dianne Hesselbein, Paul Rusk, Chuck Erickson, Melanie Hampton, Dave de Felice, Tom Stoebig, Dorothy Wheeler, Sheila Stubbs, Kyle Richmond
State Senators: Mark Miller, Fred Risser, Jon Erpenbach
Assembly Representatives: Sondy Pope-Roberts, Joe Parisi, Mark Pocan, Spencer Black, Terese Berceau
Some people say the AP program inhibits top teachers and students from really exploring the subject matter.
One of the nation’s leading private K-12 schools, the Univer-sity of Chicago Laboratory Schools, seems poised to renounce–at least in part–the curriculum most colleges and universities look for on their applicant’s transcripts: the Advanced Placement program. The school is a magnet for the children of the university’s faculty; the daughters of Michelle and Barack Obama are Lab Schools students. The school believes its students might benefit more from a different history and science curriculum, one that teachers say puts less emphasis on memorization and test preparation.
But college admission officers consider the AP program to be one of the best indicators of whether students are prepared for college-level coursework. The question that high schools debating whether to stay with AP face is how to offer the most engaging experience they can while convincing admissions offices their curriculum is academically rigorous.
Dane County High School AP course offerings.
New, critical support for arts education is mounting from business, government, and education. Wisconsin leaders are capitalizing on these opportunities in unparalleled ways.
For more information, read
West High School senior Tierney Chamberlain is one of six East Coast finalists in the reality-t.v. show “High School Musical: Get In the Picture.” Watch the performance that moved her from semi-finalist to finalist.
As many of you surely know, Tierney has a huge and amazing voice. Check out this 2006 video of her singing the national anthem. Tierney was last seen in the role of Cassie in West’s spring, 2008, production of “A Chorus Line.”
Tierney, our hats are off to you back here in Madison, not just at West, but all over town. You are an AMAZING talent. We’re rooting for you all the way!
“Last Lecture” Professor Randy Pausch, 47, Dies
The New York Times
Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon computer science professor whose last lecture became an Internet sensation and bestselling book, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 47.
In 1997, when Gordon Brown announced the “most radical welfare reforms since the Second World War”, he declared that the unemployed young would be first in the firing line. “How,” he asked, “did a society like ours get itself into a position where we are wasting young people’s talents like this?”
The Chancellor had what he thought was a solution. Under his Welfare-to-Work programme, funded by a £5 billion windfall tax on the privatised utilities, the welfare state would be transformed, making it crystal clear that “staying at home is not an option”.
But, 10 years on, the work ethic that Mr Brown was so confident he could inculcate in the nation’s jobless youth remains elusive. In fact, things have got worse: the phenomenon of Neets (young people “not in education, employment or training”) is on the rise.
A cheating scandal at one Southern California high school has prompted the College Board to invalidate the scores of 690 Advanced Placement exams. Now, hundreds of students from Trabuco Hills High School in Orange County are protesting the decision. The Los Angeles Times is calling the imbroglio “perhaps the most memorable in Southern California since 1982, when the scores of more than a dozen students in Jaime Escalante’s AP calculus class at Garfield High School were invalidated because of suspected cheating. The students retook the exams and passed, and the events were later turned into the film Stand and Deliver.”
Much more, here.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is a link to the list of MMSD teachers, administrators and staff who will be retiring at the end of the year. Take a look and see if maybe your child’s favorite elementary school teacher — or perhaps your own favorite secretary — might be there. If so, consider taking a moment to send them a note of thanks.
As the 2007-2008 school year winds down, it is the season for saying “thank you.” “Thank you” to all of the teachers and other District staff to whom we feel genuinely and deeply grateful. Does your school host a “teacher appreciation” event? If so, make sure your family participates. Or consider making a contribution to your school’s PTO — especially if there is a special fund for classroom teacher support — or one to your own teacher’s classroom supply fund. (We all know teachers purchase classroom supplies with their own money.) Or just take the time to write a note of thanks, perhaps encouraging your child to do the same. We have found that it feels good to end the year on a note of gratitude.
Whatever else I may say about the Madison school district and particular MMSD administrators, I also think we are blessed to have some absolutely incredible teachers in our schools. Our hats are off to each and every one of them.
Voters in the Rio School District approved a referendum on Tuesday that some called a last-ditch effort to save the school district.
The referendum was to exceed the levy limits over the next three years for a total of $1,270,000.
The final vote was 627 to 340 in favor of the referendum.
Village leaders and business owners said the existence of the school ensures the small town’s survival.
“I’ve seen towns in other states that have lost schools and they’ve become ghost towns,” said resident Jennifer Wearne.
Wearne has two children in Rio schools.
I had the great pleasure of spending a couple of days on the Brown University campus last week. Among other things, I learned about the enormous respect and affection Brown students have for their President, Ruth Simmons. Then yesterday, someone sent me this link with the memo “Another Reason to Go to Brown.” (Current high school seniors have until May 1 to decide where they will go next year.) Another reason to go to Brown? Perhaps. But I’d rather call this inspiring video snippet “another reason to dream big and believe in yourself.”
Ruth Simmons — America’s Best Leaders 2007
hen a car in front of him stopped suddenly, J.R. Acker, 17, of Madison slammed on the brakes of his GMC Envoy.
He stopped in time, but the red light on a camera mounted on his rearview mirror began flashing. He knew he’d have to explain the sudden stop to his mother, Sara, when she received an e-mail about the incident the following day.
A junior at Edgewood High School, J.R. is among about 3,000 young drivers participating in the Teen Safe Driver Program offered by Madison-based American Family Insurance.
The Madison School District is making the full transition to a standards-based educational system. Here is the second in a series of articles about a standards-based system, with this one focusing on curriculum.
Introduction to a standards-based system: curriculum
The Wisconsin Model Academic Standards (WMAS) articulate what students should know and be able to do in each curricular area. Community leaders and staff in the MMSD elaborated upon these state standards to frame district curriculum and instruction.
This article focuses on curriculum, which can be thought of as the planned educational experiences taught in each subject area at each grade level. No matter what specific materials or experiences a student has, he/she should always have the opportunity to learn fundamental ideas and develop skills as identified by the standards. Curriculum is then considered to be “standards-based”.
The remainder of this article will use science as an example of a content area to show how the curriculum in the MMSD is standards-based.
Via MMSD Today, which includes an article on teacher board certification
Across the Washington area, International Baccalaureate is booming, with more than two dozen high schools offering the college-level program and more signing up all the time. College admissions officers say they love seeing IB courses on transcripts. Students say the IB writing instruction and five-hour, end-of-course exams prepare them well for higher education.
But there’s a catch: Students usually can’t get college credit for one-year IB courses, even though they are similar to one-year Advanced Placement courses, which are eligible for credit. In another complication, students can get credit for passing tests after two-year IB courses, but that credit is equivalent to one year in AP.
Most university officials say they can’t explain these discrepancies. In many local high schools, bewilderment and frustration are growing among students and teachers over college policies about IB that seem at odds with the colleges’ oft-stated support for more challenging high school curricula.
“Imagine the consternation of these students who are getting the very best scores possible and are not seeing any recognition at most colleges,” said Marilyn Leeb, IB coordinator at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County.
“I feel like we were being cheated,” said Chad King, a 2007 graduate of Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County who received no credit for one-year IB courses from Ohio Dominican University in Columbus. “IB puts a lot of stress and pressure on its students, and for us not to get credit just because it is not AP is unfair.”
Colin Blakemore,Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick
If we identify and eliminate the genes that cause mental disorders, do we risk destroying the rich creativity that often accompanies them?
Isaac Newton was able to work without a break for three days. Einstein took a job in a patent office because he was too disruptive to work in a university. HG Wells was so gawky and insecure at school that he had only one friend. Are these psychiatric disorders that should be treated or genius that should be cherished?
In a new book, Genius Genes, Irish psychiatrist Michael Fitzgerald argues that special forms of creativity are associated with a variety of cognitive disorders.
Fitzgerald describes how Charles de Gaulle’s Asperger’s syndrome was critical to his success as a politician. He was aloof, had a phenomenal memory, lacked empathy with other people, and was extremely controlling and dominating. He also showed signs of autistic repetitiveness and was similar in many respects to other politicians whom Fitzgerald argues also had Asperger’s, including Thomas Jefferson in the US and Enoch Powell in Britain.
The oddness of many great writers is well documented and a surprisingly high proportion of poets, in particular, had symptoms that indicate manic depression. See Touched with Fire and An Unquiet Mind
The richness of humanity and the power of our culture are, in no small way, attributable to the diversity of our minds. Do we want a world in which the creativity linked to the oddness at the fringes of normality is medicated away?
On Tuesday afternoon a La Follette High School principal was attempting to escort to the office a couple of students who had been arguing. One student (the 16 year old listed above) did not want to go to the office and became hostile. She began yelling and ended up punching the principal in the face. A Madison Police officer witnessed the act. That officer was also punched in the face while arresting the student. The melee took place during class passing time, and the arresting officer described the situation in a report as “extremely disturbing and disruptive to the school environment.”
Following the arrest pepper spray and a box cutter were found to be in the 16-year-old’s possession. These were grounds for additional tentative charges. The student also spit her gum on the floor, which is a violation of Madison’s Expectorating Ordinance.
Tuesday is decision day at Genesee Depot’s Magee Elementary School, where a little girl named Hope is running for the Virtualville state senate with the modest proposal “she will do her best,” and where Chloe overreaches a bit with promising “a happy ever after.”
It’s a kinder and gentler primary than the one the students’ parents and others across the state can participate in on the same day. But it’s one that teacher Terry Kaldhusdal said benefits from the presence of a real election being fought at a time when Wisconsin usually is an afterthought.
“It’s always nice when it coincides with an actual election, especially a national election,” said Kaldhusdal, who has made the Virtualville election and government exercise a part of the Kettle Moraine School District for the past decade.
Virtualville’s synthetic state election is just one of the ways enterprising teachers in the Milwaukee area are capitalizing on interest in the Wisconsin primary to teach students about the political process.
Oak Creek High School, North Shore Bank, other businesses and the Chamber of Commerce are hosting a “community conversation” on Feb. 20 to help find summer jobs for Oak Creek High School students with disabilities.
Here’s more information from a news release about the effort:
Four out of five Wisconsin high school students with disabilities say they plan to work during summer break. Yet fewer than half that number actually landed a job this past summer. In fact, fewer than 15% of students with the most significant disabilities worked, according to preliminary findings from a University of Wisconsin research study following 375 students with disabilities in 34 Wisconsin high schools.
One of (the group’s) first efforts will be to invite the community to an evening of conversation and free desserts in hopes of gathering great ideas, untapped resources and better connections between schools, local businesses and the greater Oak Creek/Franklin community.
Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.
In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
On May 10, 2008 – Pangea Day – sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv will be videoconferenced live to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.
It’s the time of year, with holiday bills still coming in, taxes not far ahead, not to mention the market going down like a deflating party balloon, that money is on the minds of us grownups more than we’d like.
But how about our kids? Do they have a grasp on the concept of cash flow? Janet Bodnar’s much hailed Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know about Money and How to Tell Them (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance) takes on those money matters–the thorny issues of teaching kids to respect, spend, save, and ultimately earn money sensibly. Bodnar, who writes Kiplinger’s “Money Smart Kids” column, begins with a tough test for parents, “Test Your Money Smarts.” Here’s a sample:
Your 14-year-old son has been saving half of his allowance and mony earned from neighborhood jobs. Now he wants to use the money to buy an expensive iPod.
Typically parents justify the price of these videos, which range from $300 to $5,000, as an investment against a scholarship, one that might save a kid tens of thousands on annual tuition. Student-Athlete Showcase, which was founded in 2003 by Rex Grayner, a former college baseball player, also offers clients a full-dress press package — a so-called E-Profile that includes a résumé, a highlight reel, stats and a selective bio that looks suspiciously like a pedigree (the athletic achievements of a student’s dame and sire are underscored). As a sports matchmaker, Student-Athlete Showcase now boasts of winning clients an average of $12,000 in scholarship money, or a total of $1.7 million since the site’s introduction.
In response to my open records request to Lucy Mathiak for her records about small learning communities, I received a copy of the following e-mail which she sent to Jim Zellmer on July 6, 2007. I asked Lucy whether she wanted to post it or whether she’d prefer that I post it. Since she didn’t respond, here’s the memo:
This is provided as background only. I am not ready to go public with my concerns – yet. FWIW, tho, this is what I said to administration and the P&A committee:
Thank you for all of the hard work and time that has gone into developing the SLC grant proposal. I understand that this is an important opportunity to bring resources into the district to help focus on high school transitions and achievement.
While I am, in principle, supportive of the idea of SLC’s, I confess that I am baffled and disappointed by the proposal that I received for the reasons outlined below. I apologize in advance for what has turned out to be a lengthy iteration of what I view as significant problems in the proposal and in the programs if they are enacted.
The Capital Times
September 25, 2007
Football coach Barry Switzer’s famous quote, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple,” could easily apply to schools and school districts that take credit for students who enter school with every advantage and continue as high achievers all along.
But how do you fairly judge the job that teachers, schools and districts with many children who have significant obstacles — obstacles like poverty, low parental expectations, illness and disability or lack of English proficiency — are doing? Likewise, how do you make certain that your top students are adding growth every year as they go through school, rather than just coasting toward some average or proficient standard?
Wall Street Journal
September 20, 2007
Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.
He motioned to them to sit down. “Make me earn it,” he said.
What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? For Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, the question isn’t rhetorical — he’s dying of cancer. Jeff Zaslow narrates a video on Prof. Pausch’s final lecture.
They had come to see him give what was billed as his “last lecture.” This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted “Last Lecture Series,” in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?
It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O’Connor recently titled her lecture “Get Over Yourself.” At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled “Desire,” spoke about sex and technology.
At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch’s speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.
He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, “I’m sorry to disappoint you.” He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.
Randy Pausch and his three children, ages 5, 2 and 1.
Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he’d won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn’t need them anymore.
He paid tribute to his techie background. “I’ve experienced a deathbed conversion,” he said, smiling. “I just bought a Macintosh.” Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: “Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.” He encouraged us to be patient with others. “Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you.” After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he’d drawn on the walls, he said: “If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let ’em do it.”
While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. “You’d be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away,” he said, but they all rose to the challenge.
He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home’s resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she’d introduce him: “This is my son. He’s a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”
He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation’s foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop “Alice,” a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.
“Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don’t get to step foot in it,” Dr. Pausch said. “That’s OK. I will live on in Alice.”
Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though “I may not get there with you.”
Dr. Pausch’s lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.
Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang “Happy Birthday,” many wiping away their own tears.
Dr. Pausch’s speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they’re older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: “This was for my kids.” Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.
Write to Jeffrey Zaslow at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to know who knew what when about missing the August 4 deadline to notify parents of the MMSD decision on busing private school students, so I sent the following to Steve Hartley:
I am sending this message to you because I was told that you are now the legal custodian of district records.
This is an open records request under sec. 19.35 of the Wisconsin Statutes for all records, prepared between August 22, 2006 and August 22, 2007, that relate to or mention in any way the busing of private school students by the Madison Metropolitan School District.
As I hope that you know, Wisconsin statues define records rather broadly. It is my understanding that the definition would include any e-mail between staff on their personal computers or MMSD computers and all e-mail that might have a format such as email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to your prompt response to this request.
When it comes to looking out for her children and grandchildren, Patricia Britt, a no-nonsense hospital nursing director, is nobody’s fool. Yet here she is, in late July, beside herself because she hasn’t yet settled on a school for her 8-year-old grandson Corey to attend in the fall.
Britt and her son, who are raising Corey together, gradually became dissatisfied with the private school that’s putting a $400-a-month strain on the family budget. But they have concerns about the quality of the public schools close to their Hyde Park home. And schools that they do like, such as the View Park Preparatory charter school run by Inner City Education, have a discouragingly long waiting list.
“My son has been looking,” Britt said. “He’s getting kind of frustrated. It’s almost to the 99th hour of making the decision.”
No one knows exactly how many students are still without a school, but indicators show that the annual last-ditch scramble for a seat at a school of choice is in high gear:
Test scores in low-performing schools rose last year in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act passed more than five years ago. It requires testing and quantifiable goals to reform the country’s schools. Merrill Vargo, consultant and director of Springboard Schools, talks with Steve Inskeep about what she advises schools to do to raise their test scores.
Across New York State and the nation, educators are struggling with performance slumps in middle schools and debating how best to teach students at a transitional, volatile age. Just this week New York City put in place a new budget formula that directs extra money to middle schools.
Briarcliff has emerged as a nationally recognized model of a middle school that gets things right, a place that goes beyond textbooks to focus on social and emotional development.
There is no question that the Briarcliff school starts out with many advantages. It is part of a district in Westchester County that spends $24,738 per student, or more than one and a half times the New York State average, and can afford to buy extra sets of classroom textbooks so that students can leave their own copies at home. Its student body is relatively homogenous — 91.8 percent are white — and so well off that less than 1 percent qualify for free or reduced lunches. In contrast, in nearby New York City, 72 percent of the population qualifies.
But even affluent districts generally see a drop in student achievement in grades six through eight. Briarcliff has not; it is at the upper end of about 50 middle schools — out of more than 600 — in New York State where test scores have held steady and in some cases even increased slightly from the elementary level, according to state education data.
Over the last 140 years, Southern states have made significant progress in catching up with the nation in education and income, but in recent decades the South’s gains have virtually flattened as the world economy continues to elevate the critical role of education in innovation, productivity and income. Today, most Southern states remain where they were in the early 1980s, closer to the national average than they were decades ago, but still at or near the bottom of the nation’s major rankings in education, income and well-being.
There is an all-important exception to this pattern of Southern underperformance: high-quality, early childhood education – pre-kindergarten (Pre-K). Several Southern states have become the nation’s leaders in Pre-K over the last 10 years. As a result, the South in 2007 leads the nation in offering state-funded Pre-K to three- and four-year-old children:
19% of three- and four-year-olds in the South are in state-funded Pre-K, more than double the rate in non-South states.
As other members have posted, it takes 4 votes to place an item on a board agenda. The big issue is that it takes a minimum of 5 votes to change the budget once it has been passed.
I have tried to emphasize that issue in conversations that have taken place in recent days. I have done so, not to be mean, but to encourage people to be highly pragmatic as they try to think through “what next” in this extremely painful time.
I have been asked if I would vote to reconsider. HOWEVER, it seems to me that there are two very different questions at hand:
1)is there a sustainable (e.g. more than a year or two)source of income that was not available or obvious to the board on Monday night. If not, any request to undo the consolidation is likely to fail. I would have trouble supporting it, for example, because of the strong chance that we will be having the same debate in a year or so. That doesn’t seem like a healthy choice for staff or students.
2) is the implementation plan for consolidation structured in the best way for the schools and neighborhoods? This is a very different question and speaks to a number of legitimate concerns that have been raised and which should be considered and addressed by the board and by district administration.
I strongly advise advocates for the pair to ask themselves whether there is a plan that would substantially alter the outcome of a vote on the first question – especially because success requires 5 votes in this case.
I would have a very hard time supporting a reconsideration that rests on reopening other budget decisions that were made on Monday. Similarly, I would have a hard time supporting reconsideration if there is not a viable new scenario to consider.
In short, it is a lot easier for me to envision reopening the consolidation to look at how to proceed in the best and most sustainable way, and to consider how to best work with neighborhoods and staff to rally around the merged school.
I realize that this is not as open ended as some of you may hope. However, IF there is going to be a successful move to reconsider, it will need to be firmly rooted in solid proposals that provide viable alternatives to the existing plan.
A letter to the editor from The Capital Times:
Dear Editor: With the multitude of challenges it’s facing, the Madison Metropolitan School District needs all the friends it can get. But the district is alienating central city neighborhoods that value quality public education and the people who are willing to pay for it.
At election time, voters in Ward 34 on Madison’s near east side always turn out in huge numbers to support schools. In May 2005, Ward 34 cast the most votes in the district in favor of all three referendum questions, including one calling for a new Leopold School on the south side. In fall 2006, Ward 34 cast the most yes votes — 1,849 of them — on the referendum that included building an elementary school on the far west side.
So where is MMSD planning to cut costs to deal with its latest budget crisis? Ward 34!
O’Keeffe Middle and Marquette Elementary (where Ward 34 votes) are two of the most successful schools in the district, by any measure. But for some reason, the district thinks it’s a good idea to save money by uprooting and consolidating Marquette at the Lapham site and transforming O’Keeffe into a mega-middle school of as many as 800 students. That’s some gratitude.
The district will need a lot of support as it struggles with state-imposed spending caps, exploding health care costs, changing demographic patterns, and other threats. But if the district follows through on its plans for Marquette and O’Keeffe, it can no longer take that support for granted.
Joseph Rossmeissl, Madison
A press release from the Urban League:
April 26, 2007
Contact: Scott Gray
Cherokee Middle School Principal to Receive the 2007 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award
Madison, WI: The Urban League of Greater Madison recently announced that it will present Cherokee Heights Middle School Principal Karen Seno with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Equal Opportunity Award.
The award is given annually by Boards of Directors of Urban League affiliates from across the country in memory of the great civil rights leader and former head of the National Urban League. Young was one of America’s most charismatic, courageous and influential civil rights pioneers. He worked tirelessly to gain access for blacks to good jobs, education, housing, health care and social services.
There seems to be some confusion about the negotiations between MTI and the school district. The Board WILL be negotiating health insurance with MTI; the Board has NOT taken health insurance off the table. The Voluntary Impasse Agreement (VIA) does NOT eliminate this as a subject of negotiation. The VIA DOES set up a structure for negotiations: a schedule, agreement by MTI that teachers will not engage in job actions, dates for the start of mediation if a settlement hasn’t been reached, name of the mediator, a date for binding arbitration if mediation is not successful and name of the arbitrator. IF no voluntary settlement is reached and we go to binding arbitration, MTI agrees that it will not propose a change to the salary schedule and the Board agrees not to change health insurance. Those agreements are meant to make binding arbitration less attractive to both sides – and to put the emphasis on reaching a voluntary agreement.
Because the Board has not yet provided MTI with our proposals I cannot discuss them in public. I can however talk about the settlement we have reached with our custodians who are represented by AFSCME. The custodians agreed to change their health insurance to a choice of 3 HMO’s (Group Health, Physicians Plus and DeanCare). The savings from this change allowed a greater salary increase (2.5%). A small amount of the savings ($15,000) went back to the budget. These savings are realized only in the first year – thereafter, the base for figuring future costs uses the lower health insurance costs.
One of the most dramatic changes of the last 5 years (and one that has been little noted) is the movement of teachers from WPS to Group Health. This year more than 50% of the teacher’s unit take Group Health Insurance – the lowest priced HMO in the community.
A more complete discussion of this issue can be found at: http://www.madisonamps.org/component/option,com_jd-wp/Itemid,31/p,51/
Our schools need a new School Board majority, one committed to open government, including transparent budgeting and decision-making, and accountability to the community.
The next board will also hire the new superintendent and handle his or her performance evaluation, something Superintendent Art Rainwater has had little of from the current majority.
We stand at a crossroads with this election. Will it be more of the same top-down, teachers union-directed governance, or independent, open-minded, responsive representation?
There are many good issues-based reasons to vote for Maya Cole and Rick Thomas, but concerns for fair process and superintendent selection stand out for me.
It will take electing them both to gain that new majority.
– Joan Knoebel, Madison
As a teacher-centered lesson ended the other morning at Midvale Elementary School, about 15 first-graders jumped up from their places on the carpeted rug and dashed to their personal bins of books.
Most students quickly settled into two assigned groups. One read a story about a fox in a henhouse with the classroom teacher, and another group, headed by a UW-Madison student teacher, read a more challenging nonfiction book about a grandmother who, as one child excitedly noted, lived to be 101.
In addition to this guided reading lesson, one boy sat at a computer wearing headphones, clicking on the screen that displayed the words as a story was read aloud to him, to build word recognition and reading stamina. Two other boys read silently from more advanced books. Another boy received one-on-one help from a literacy coach conducting a Reading Recovery lesson with him.
“I think what’s so important is that this program truly meets the needs of a variety of students, from those who are struggling to those who are accelerated,” says Principal John Burkholder.
East Side school plan opposed
March 19, 2007
Waving bright signs and chanting, dozens of parents, kids, and teachers converged at a School Board meeting Monday night to protest proposed budget cuts that could consolidate elementary and middle schools on the East Side.
Earlier this month, Madison school officials proposed addressing a projected $10.5 million shortfall in next year’s budget by moving Marquette Elementary students to Lapham Elementary and splitting Sherman Middle School students between O’Keeffe and Black Hawk middle school. The move would save about $800,000.
School Board members are still wrangling with at least five options to deal with the budget deficit and were presented with an alternative consolidation plan at Monday’s meeting.
But many affected students, parents and teachers came to the meeting angry about the administration’s recommendation to take students out of Marquette and Sherman, arguing it would eliminate neighborhood schools, force kids who currently walk to school to take buses, and increase class sizes.
“I really don’t want to go to Lapham,” said Kalley Rittman, a Marquette fourth-grader who was at the rally with her parents. “All the kids are going to be squished in one place.”
Currently, Kalley and her sister in third grade, Hannah, walk to Marquette, said their mother, Kit. They would have to be bused to Lapham.
Kalley was also clutching an envelope with letters from other students and teachers at Marquette, and later spoke in front of the board, telling them she created a video on the school for them to watch.
Faye Kubly said her 11-year-old son had trouble in elementary schools before he transferred to Marquette, where teachers developed a system for him to learn successfully. She and other parents called the middle school proposal a “mega middle school” and called on the state to change its funding guidelines.
WSJ Endorse Thomas for Seat 3
Rick Thomas has run a successful business.
He understands the importance of serving customers. He has made decisions about which employees, equipment and services he can afford and which he can’t afford.
He also understands and appreciates schools. He has been a substitute teacher and a volunteer tutor. He is a father with a son in elementary school.
His concern for Madison schools, enlightened by his business sense, would make him a valuable addition to the School Board.
He proposes more cost-benefit analyses to weed out unsuccessful programs.
He also proposes to improve discipline in the classrooms to create an environment more conducive to learning.
In addition, he wants the School Board and administration to be more open to parents’ ideas and to more partnerships with parents, businesses and community organizations, as well as more involvement by the schools in the community, particularly through student public service projects.
While everyone is weighing in on the best way to teach our kids, I cannot get over the failure to educate youngsters about American institutions.
The more inclusive and more truthful curriculum about our nation’s history that is taught today is a vast step forward. However, when I graduated from high school I could discuss the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the the Declaration of Independence and their inherent contradictions. I knew the three branches of government and their powers.
There are some teachers who emphasize civics. A great teacher friend recently mentioned “if we’re doing such a good job with the students, why are so few people asking questions of our government?”
Over the past week, I have had several heartfelt e-mails from residents of the Lapham-Marquette neighborhood, urging me and other board members to oppose closing Lapham School. To put the e-mails in context, let us all remember that there are MANY proposals out there because EVERYTHING is on the table thanks to the $10 million structural deficit that the district faces.
For those of you who are unaware of my background, let me share with you that I have lived in the Marquette neighborhood since 1978, first as a renter and now as a home owner. My membership # at Willy St. is 10. Yes, ten. My roots go deep, as does my memory of community history. After all, I chose to live there when we had to step over drunks to get to the laundromat, and anyone could get a good dose of grease and indigestion at Dolly’s. I moved in when there were crack houses around the corner, and stayed because it was a values choice.
So where do I stand on “don’t close Lapham?” This is the gist of what I am replying to the e-mails:
I have lived in the Marquette neighborhood since 1978 and was engaged in the vigorous and divisive neighborhood debate over whether to reopen Lapham. Having opposed reopening Lapham at the time because the optimistic demographic projections seemed unsupportable, and having predicted that we would end up at exactly this point, I am now disinterested in closing it so that we can debate the issue once more in ten years. I would note that the majority of children in Lapham are still being bused from the Marquette side of the isthmus; after all these years, the school as family magnet argument has not lived up to predictions.
That said, there is a brutal bugetary reality before the district. $10 million in structural – ongoing – deficit is going to mean change for all of our schools. For that reason, I will be supporting a review of staffing levels for the current population and demographics. (I urge everyone considering the debate to look at the demographics http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/topics/stats/2006/byincome.htm for ALL of our elementary schools and understand that as a progressive I must be concerned for the schools that are functioning with high levels of poverty and inadequate staffing.)
I urge the people who are so passionate about not closing Lapham or combining the pair to be proactive about proposals that can make keeping the school open easier to support. This means finding ways to use the space for some segment of district administration or renting space to community groups or finding some other use that goes beyond the current structure. E.g., the district used to rent space to the Tenney Lapham nursery school.
This time around, it is going to take a lot more than rhetoric or advocacy for referenda to address the very real shortage of resources that we face.
A reader forwarded this: Laurie David:
At hundreds of screenings this year of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.
The producers of former vice president Al Gore’s film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.
The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.
In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.
Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film’s theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.
Does the Bush administration want to undermine and eliminate public education?
To my amazement, I was told today that many people in education would emphatically answer yes.
What are the thoughts of people who post on or read schoolinfosystem.org?
‘Brains register’ for bright children
By Nick Hodgson, PA
Published: 11 July 2006
A register of talented pupils in England is being launched by the Government.
Head teachers at every secondary school will get letters this week asking them to register their brightest and most talented pupils with the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (Nagty), according to the BBC.
The aim is to help children from poorer backgrounds fulfil their potential.
Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said: “We must stop the terrible waste of talent when children don’t reach their full potential.
“This register will ensure they are spotted early and don’t lose out because they come from a deprived background.
“Our brightest children should be helped to reach the top and use their gifts. The pursuit of excellence which benefits the whole country should be open to children of all backgrounds, not just a privileged minority.”
The scheme will involve having specially-trained teachers in every secondary school and in groups of primary schools.
But the plans have been criticised.
Former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead said the problem was not identifying the bright pupils, but offering them appropriate support.
Mr Woodhead, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, said: “The problem is doing something for them and if secondary schools are not doing enough for the brightest children now why are they going to do anything for them if they are on a register?”
He said if there were more grammar schools gifted children would prosper anyway because “there, bright children are educated in schools for bright children”.
The register follows research from education charity the Sutton Trust which suggested just one-in-five children from poorer homes go on to higher education compared with half of those from the top three social classes.
The Government wants schools to identify the top 5% of 11 to 19-year-olds who are eligible for Nagty membership.
I thought some of the readers might be interested in a Blog dedicated by and for those working in the Foundations of Education field. Full disclosure, my academic work as a historian is on the margins of Foundations of Education and one of the contributers, Sherman Dorn, is a friend.
Marisue, Your comments are closed so I have to open a new post. Curiously, you as one of the regular posters here complain about the influence of blogs and talk radio. I saw lots of your candidates’ supporters at the 92.1 radio forum and many of your associates, especially from the special ed bloc, post here regularly.
So what’s the beef exactly–that folks can speak their minds freely and reference materials and sources not otherwise available in the echo chamber that has until recently been our political scene here in Madison?
I am happy to have this place to debate ideas. I welcome the disagreement so long as it isn’t personal. I think that’s something alot of folks have gotten sick of with the way the current board majority functions–if you don’t fall in step, you’re attacked personally.
So let’s keep talking, posting new data, pushing for answers together–here, and hopefully before a school board dedicated to those same principles.
VOTE FOR COLE AND MATHIAK
This was a letter to the editor published in the Wisconsin State Journal, March 30, 2006
The best reason to vote for Maya Cole and Lucy Mathiak: Electing both will change the majority on the school board. Together, Maya and Lucy will restore decorum to a board now typified by bullying and rigidity. Open government, accessible to all, and transparent decision-making will be the new order. Instead of simply rubberstamping administration and union positions, Lucy and Maya will work hard to build consensus, to develop creative answers to knotty issues like budget constraints, curriculum standards, equity; and they will support their decisions with real data gleaned from outside the current echo chamber. A vast improvement over the status quo, they will also exercise genuine oversight, making the board, not the superintendent or the union president, the final arbiter of district policy.
These are women of high standards, integrity and a refreshing honesty, both deeply committed to educating our children. Please join me in voting for Cole and Mathiak on April 4th. Together, they will transform board governance by resurrecting civility, accountability and public accessibility so that our schools can best prepare all children for their and our future.
The increased popularity of “school choice” and charter schools has another — often overlooked — consequence: an increased emphasis on school marketing.
“Schools find themselves in a different environment today,” said Dr. Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change in Minnesota.
“It used to be pretty cut and dried who goes to what school.
“As we’ve evolved in the last decade toward more public school choice through the charter school movement, more and more families want to learn about their options.”
Delaware is one of the nation’s leaders in school choice, according to a 2005 report released by the nonprofit Rodel Foundation of Delaware.
From the Wall Street Journal‘s Opinion Journal
The exodus to charter schools.
BY KATHERINE KERSTEN
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%.
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.
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.”
Nothing represents the stratification of French society more than the country’s rigid educational system, which has reinforced the segregation of disadvantaged second-generation immigrant youths by effectively locking them out of the corridors of power.
While French universities are open to all high school graduates, the grandes écoles – great schools – from which many of the country’s leaders emerge, weed out anyone who does not fit a finely honed mold. Of the 350,000 students graduating annually from French high schools, the top few grandes écoles accept only about 1,000, virtually all of whom come from a handful of elite preparatory schools.
It is the Davidsons’ other, related aim that calls forth a different kind of fervor. Authors (with Laura Vanderkam) of a book called “Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Minds” (2004), they are on a mission to remedy what they are convinced is a widespread neglect of exceptionally talented children. That means challenging the American myth that they are weirdos or Wunderkinder best left to their own devices or made to march with the crowd. “By denying our most intelligent students an education appropriate to their abilities,” Jan Davidson warns a nation in the midst of a No Child Left Behind crusade, “we may also be denying civilization a giant leap forward.” Precocious children are not only avid learners eager for more than ordinary schools often provide, the Davidsons emphasize; they are also a precious – and imperiled – resource for the future. The Davidsons, joined by many other advocates of the gifted, maintain that it is these precocious children who, if handled right, will be the creative adults propelling the nation ahead in an ever more competitive world. As things stand, the argument goes, the highly gifted child is an endangered species in need of outspoken champions like the Davidsons, who are role models for the “supportive, advocating parent” they endorse.
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:
Wisconsin students stayed above national averages in test results released Wednesday, but a Journal Sentinel analysis of the data shows that the gap between black and white students was among the largest in the nation. In eighth-grade reading and in fourth-grade math, the gaps were larger than in any other state in the country.
By SARAH CARR
Oct. 19, 2005
When Dr. Jan Davidson spoke this week in Madison, she shared with her audience of parents, teachers, and administrators 12 low cost ideas for improving the educational opportunities of our academically advanced students.
What can schools do?
What can schools — schools that don’t have extra funds, but really care about the learning of their bright students — do?
1. Early Entrance to kindergarten — if a child is developmentally ready before the age or date specified, she can enter school early.
2. Pre-assessments are done before a unit or a course — if a student demonstrates mastery, he is able to move to a more advanced course.
3. Self-contained classes for the gifted, particularly in core curriculum subjects.
4. Multi-age, self-contained gifted classes are even more effective.
5. Subject acceleration is encouraged when a student is proficient in a particular subject.
6. Grade acceleration is encouraged when a student demonstrates proficiency in a particular grade level.
7. Opportunities for dual enrollment are available to students, e.g., taking some high school courses when a student is in middle school.
8. Advanced Placement (AP) courses and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) program are available to students.
9. Provide counselors who are trained to counsel gifted students, including advising them of talent development opportunities.
10. Work with the Talent Searches and give students credit for the credits they earn in their academic summer programs.
11. Create a school culture that values intellectual discovery and achievement, where students encourage one another to accomplish more than they would on their own.
12. Administrators and teachers who are knowledgeable about the wide range of exceptional abilities among bright students and are flexible in addressing the individual student’s learning needs.
Dr. Davidson will be posting her lecture slides online at the Genius Denied website
Student enrollment in the Madison Metropolitan School District for the 2005-06 school year is 24,490 according to the official enrollment count conducted on the third Friday in September, as required by state law. The number represents a decrease from last year of 220 students or eight-tenths of one percent.
This figure aligns with the district’s most recent projected student count — 24,524. The total enrollment is only 34 students (0.1%) lower than this projection.
“When you look at the long-term trend statistically, our district-wide student enrollment remains stable,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater. “Of concern now – and one of the reasons two community task forces are working on possible solutions — is under-enrollment in some of our schools and high enrollment in others.”
In comparison to last year, the number of elementary students (gr. K-5) is up 143, partially due to the largest kindergarten class since September 1996 – 1,957. There are 151 fewer middle school students (grades 6-8), and 212 fewer high school students (gr. 9-12).
I picked up the message below from a local listserve.
Dear Members of the School Board:
I am asking you to recommend interested persons for the Finance and Operations Subcommittee on Advertising. Please send Barb Lahman, name(s), contact information and a brief bio. Meetings will be once a month and probably during the day. I’m asking for people who have good ideas, “think outside the box”, in business, marketing or related fields or anyone who might make a positive contribution to the committee.
Again, this committee is not going “debate” the idea or philosophy of advertising but hopefully give a wide range of options to the board. It would be very helpful if you made contact with the person that you nominate and ask them if their interested in serving. Please send possible names by Friday September 16th. Please contact me if you have questions. Thank you.
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:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2005
5:00 p.m. Human Resources Committee
1. Approval of Minutes dated February 7, 2005 and March 14, 2005
2. Public Appearances
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.
Doyle Administration Bldg
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
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.
Doyle Administration Bldg
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
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
545 West Dayton Street
Madison WI 53703
One of the issues affecting decisions on attendance boundaries for Leopold Elementary School is whether the Ridgewood Country Club Apartments, located across the street from the school, will continue to house large numbers of low income families.
The following article from The Capital Times provides an update on the ownership and future plans for the apartment complex.
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.
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:
Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/jun05/336091.asp
NOTE: THIS LINK LEADS TO A PAGE THAT INCLUDES A CHART THAT IS NOT REPRODUCED HERE
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Does state’s method inflate graduation rate?
Wisconsin says 92% finish high school; report estimates 78% do
By SARAH CARR
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.
Little solid evidence is available to gauge whether the federal government’s multibillion-dollar Reading First initiative is having an effect on student achievement, but many states are reporting anecdotally that they are seeing benefits for their schools.
Among those benefits are extensive professional development in practices deemed to be research-based, extra instructional resources, and ongoing support services, according to an Education Week analysis of state performance reports published June 8, 2005.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has sent a letter to members of the Joint Finance Committee and the Milwaukee legislative delegation outlining his concerns regarding funding for public K-12 education.
Perhaps Mayor Dave would like to take a stab at such a message?
The County Clerk web site has referendum results, by ward, for people who are interested:
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
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: http://www.thewheelerreport.com/releases/Apr05/Apr1/0401dpihstaskforce.pdf
Despite a written agreement between Madison Teachers Incorporated and the Board of Education that aims at settling the teachers contract for 2005-07 by June 30, union executive director John Matthews and Superintendent Art Rainwater made a jovial � and unprecedented – announcement that they would delay discussion of wages and benefits until after the April 5 school board elections.
Delaying talk about pay and benefits for teachers is a puzzling step for union leader Matthews, especially given his March 17 comments that “No matter what the settlement is, it won’t be enough to reward the teachers,” Matthews said as the MTI proposal was presented Wednesday, “These are teachers, not priests and nuns who took a vow of poverty.”
The 3/2/05 CapTimes includes an excellent op ed piece by Ruth Robarts detailing her concerns about creating a large K-5 elementary school. http://www.madison.com/tct/mad/opinion//index.php?ntid=30501
Leave it to New Yorkers to leave no sacred cows. Read on and enjoy the picture –
Gift to the City � is it Art or for the Birds? “The Crackers” is as much a public happening as it is a tasty snack, defying the domino theory. Peanut butter or cheddar cheese. They poured their hearts and souls into the project for over 26 minutes. It required three dozen crackers and spanned over nearly 23 inches along a footbridge in the park at a cost (borne exclusively by the artists) of $2.50. Is it art? You decide. The installation was completed with no permits or bureaucracy, and fed to the ducks after about a half hour. “The Crackers” is entirely for profit
View “The Crackers” and brighten your day
Clash of philosophies, direct instruction vs balanced literacy (aka whole language) in Rockford, IL discussed in NYtimes
More on the environment women face in math and the sciences with a foreword by Paul Ehrlich
Lifting the School System
Published Letter in New York Times: October 21, 2004
To the Editor:
In “Improving Education” (letter, Oct. 16), the writer says we not only need money but also “new ideas” to improve public education. But public education has been flooded with new ideas in recent decades, and far too many children continue to leave school without a decent education.
Just as improvements to horses and buggies do not produce an automobile, so all the many improvements to public schools over recent years do not add up to the new kind of education system needed to educate children in today’s world.
Learning can be brought to the levels now needed only by basically changed relationships among students, teachers and families, in which each participant first holds himself accountable for quality performance and then the others for collaborating and support in nonbureaucratic ways.
Educational experience and research confirm that these relationships make some schools successful, even with students from difficult backgrounds. What subverts the system is the bureaucratic culture in public schools.
The current drive for more money and accountability is unlikely to reform our schools, only further entrench the existing dysfunctional public school system. Policy makers need to face this fundamental system change.
David S. Seeley
Staten Island, Oct. 18, 2004
The writer is a professor of education at the CUNY Graduate Center.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction hosts a Web site of information on Reading First, which Superintendent Rainwater said would have “injured” Madison students.
On the Web site DPI says, “Wisconsin is proud to assist teachers in the 65 Reading First schools in the areas of professional development in reading; implementation of the essential components of reading instruction; and the selection and/or administration of screening, diagnostic, progress monitoring, and outcome assessments.”
Does the DPI endorse injuring the students in 65 schools?
See more at the DPI Web site.
Here’s a copy of the statement I used to address the Long Range Planning Committee on October 18.
After my statement, discussions with and among the Committee clarified that the annual additional cost of operating a new school falls in the range of $300,000 to $400,000 annually, not $2.4 million as I had calculated. The cost isn’t so high, according to the discussion, because the district already spends money on teachers and supplies that would simply move into a new building. Even with an annual operating cost increase of $300,000, no one pointed to a specific plan to cover the expense and no backup should a referendum fail to allow spending above the state-imposed revenue cap.
The student representative on the Board acknowleged at West might be crowded but it wasn’t a major concern. [I’m sorry that I don’t remember his exactly words, but I think I have the meaning of what he said.] District officials said that more detailed five-year enrollment projections would be available on the MMSD Web site in November.
Carol Carstensen agreed with the suggestion for more hearings across the city.
From Board members’ comments at the meeting and in news reports, the Board appears ready to approve a referendum.
On Friday, October 15, Madison School Board members received an e-mail from Superintendent Art Rainwater announcing that the district will withdraw from a federal program known as Reading First.
In subsequent interviews with local newspapers, Rainwater estimated that the decision means forgoing approximately $2M in funds for materials to help students in the primary grades learn to read. The Cap Times
Wisconsin State Journal
Whenever the district qualifies for such federal grants, the Board votes to increase the budget to reflect the new revenues. To the best of my knowledge, the superintendent has not discussed this decision with the Performance & Achievement Committee. He has certainly not included the full Board in the decision to withdraw from Reading First.
The memo follows (click on the link below to view it or click here to view a 200K PDF):
In researching the need for the MMSD to build a new elementary school on the Leopold site, I compared an MMSD analysis of elementary school capacity with current enrollment.
Existing Madison elementary schools could accomodate more than 1,600 new students. An MMSD official says only Hawthorne is over capacity.
You can see the school-by-school analysis in the table MMSD Excess Capacity 2004.
ps. Feel free to post comments by clicking below.
Monday October 18th, 2004
7:00pm – Long Range Planning, Leopold Elementary, Gym, 2602 Post Road.
Public Hearing Relative to Constructing a Second Elementary School on the Leopold Site
The MMSD’s documents on the new school appear on the agendas of the Long Range Planning Committee.
Feel free to post comments or questions by clicking on comments.
The problem of insufficient staffing at LaFollette makes me wonder how Dr. Rainwater will find enough staff for a new school.
Here’s the beginning of an article from the WSJ:
“Tseoin Ayalew says her dreams of becoming a doctor are in jeopardy because a shortage of teachers at La Follette High School means she’s wasting 90 minutes a day in a study hall instead of taking an advanced physics or chemistry class.
“I want to get into a really good college, so I think it’s probably going to affect the scholarships,” the junior said Thursday. “They probably want to see I’m challenging myself in the science world.”
Jade Cramer, a La Follette freshman, says she’s scheduled to take two 90-minute study halls – half of the school day – beginning in November. She’s in one study hall right now, although she’d prefer to be taking a class.
“I’m trying to get rid of my study hall, but all of the classes are full,” Jade said.
Tseoin and Jade are among a growing number of La Follette students who find themselves diverted to study halls or other non-class activities this fall because, according to some students and teachers, there aren’t enough teachers.
The reason for the crunch: The school’s enrollment this fall climbed to 1,741, compared to last year’s count of 1,659, but staff levels remained virtually unchanged.”
The article continues at In study-hall limbo at LaFollette.
The Cap Times also has an article at Four block now a 3 block?
ps If you have any comments, you can click on “comment” below to post them.
“Madison East High School Principal Catherine Tillman has been relieved of her duties and reassigned to a central office position for the remainder of the school year.”
Like Tillman the newly named interim principal at East was transferred to an administrative position after serving a couple of reportedly unsuccessful years at West.
Is the change just going from one failed principal to another?
Read the story in the Wisconsin State.
by Ruth Robinson (President, Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted) and Susan Corwith (President, Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth)