Search this site

Match case Regex search

Matching entries from School Information System

A poverty solution that starts with a hug

Nicholas Kristof Perhaps the most widespread peril children face isn't guns, swimming pools or speeding cars. Rather, scientists are suggesting that it may be "toxic stress" early in life, or even before birth. This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing a landmark warning that this toxic stress can harm children for life. I'm as skeptical as anyone of headlines from new medical studies (Coffee is good for you! Coffee is bad for you!), but that's not what this is. Rather, this is a "policy statement" from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research. This has revolutionary implications for medicine and for how we can more effectively chip away at poverty and crime. Toxic...

Degrees of separation over top US university's online courses

Lisa Krieger:

Going online to get a college degree has been championed as a cost-effective way to educate the masses and challenged as a cheapening of academia. Now, the online classroom is coming to the vaunted University of California system, making it the nation's first top-tier university to offer undergraduate credit for cyberstudies. By dislodging education from its brick-and-mortar moorings, the University of California - short on money and space - hopes to ease the path to a diploma for students who are increasingly forced to wait for a vacant seat in a lecture hall. Especially in high-demand "gateway courses," such as chemistry, calculus and composition. This summer, UC Berkeley tested its first pilot course: Chemistry 1A. For one student, working as a lifeguard in San Rafael, it accelerated her progress toward a joint degree in biology and economics. Another was able to live at home in Sacramento, because she registered for summer school too late to get dorm space.

Response to WSJ Article: More Background, Additional Information, Long History of Advocacy

Lorie Raihala, via email

On Sunday, November 7, the Wisconsin State Journal featured a front-page article about the Madison School District's Talented and Gifted education services: "TAG, they're it." The story describes parents' frustration with the pace of reform since the Board of Education approved the new TAG Plan in August, 2009. It paints the TAG Plan as very ambitious and the parents as impatient-perhaps unreasonable-to expect such quick implementation. The article includes a "Complaint Timeline" that starts with the approval of the TAG Plan, skips to the filing of the complaint on September 20, and proceeds from there to list the steps of the DPI audit. Unfortunately, neither this timeline nor the WSJ article conveys the long history leading up to the parents' complaint. This story did not start with the 2009 TAG Plan. Rather, the 2009 TAG Plan came after almost two decades of the District violating State law for gifted education. To provide better background, we would like to add more information and several key dates to the "Complaint Timeline." November 2005: West High School administrators roll out their plan for English 10 at a PTSO meeting. Most of the 70 parents in attendance object to the school eliminating English electives and imposing a one-size-for-all curriculum on all students. Parents ask administrators to provide honors sections of English 10. They refuse. Parents ask administrators to evaluate and fix the problems with English 9 before implementing the same approach in 10th grade. They refuse. Parents appeal to the BOE to intervene; they remain silent. Meanwhile, parents have already been advocating for years to save the lone section of Accelerated Biology at West.

Are Honors Classes Racist?

High Expectations For All Students is the Way to Beat the Achievement Gaps Simpson Street Free Press editorial Chantal Van Ginkel, age 18 Historically, Madison West High School has not had a spotless regard regarding race relations. Before and during the 1990's, the school was accused by some of segregation. Most white students had their lockers on the second floor, while most minority students used lockers on the ground floor. To the school's credit, changes in policies have greatly improved a once hostile environment. Some of these changes include getting rid of remedial classes, and implementing SLC's or Small Learning Communities. A more recent change, however, has sparked controversy and heated debate. Madison West High School plans to largely eliminate honors classes. This is part of an attempt to provide equal opportunity for all students by homogenizing their classroom experience. At one time, this might have been a good step toward desegregation of West's student body. It is not a good idea now. To some extent, enrollment in honors courses of all Madison high schools is racially segregated. Affluent students and white students take advanced courses much more frequently than other students. But in my opinion, the lack of more rigorous courses is a problem. It is a problem for all students at West. Many parents, students and some faculty share this sentiment. Recently, a petition signed by over a hundred West attendance area parents requested that 9th and 10th grade honors classes be reinstated. When Superintendent Nerad took steps to make this, some members of the West High teaching staff spoke up. They asserted that honors classes are racist. The project to reinstate advanced course offerings for West's freshmen and sophomores was then abandoned. Honors classes, in and of themselves, are not inherently racist. Rather, the expectation that only certain students will take these classes is the problem. The fact that too many minority students end up in remedial courses is racist, but eliminating rigorous courses is not the answer. As writers for this newspaper have said many times, the real racism is the cancer of low expectations. High expectations for all of our students is how we will beat the achievement gaps in local schools. Low expectations will only make our problem worse.
Note: Madison West High School has not had honors classes in 9th and 10th grade for several years. (The only exception to that is the historically lone section of Accelerated Biology, which some West teachers have repeatedly tried to get rid of.) Not only that, but Madison West High School is the only Madison high school that does not have any honors/advanced/accelerated classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade. All West 9th and 10th grade students are expected to take regular English 9 and 10 and regular Social Studies 9 and 10, in completely heterogeneous (by ability) classes. Note: The petition mentioned by the author -- the one requesting honors classes in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade -- has now been signed by almost 200 current, past and future West community members.

Madison West High School's Accelerated Biology "Screening Test" 5/4 and 5/5

via a kind reader's email:

Those interested in Freshman Accelerated Biology at Madison West High School may take the screening test Tuesday, May 4th at James C. Wright Middle School from 4-6 pm (room TBA) or Wednesday, May 5th at West High School from 4-6 (room 225).

Some of California's most gifted students are being ignored, advocates say

Carla Rivera:

If you reviewed Dalton Sargent's report cards, you'd know only half his story. The 15-year-old Altadena junior has lousy grades in many subjects. He has blown off assignments and been dissatisfied with many of his teachers. It would be accurate to call him a problematic student. But he is also gifted. Dalton is among the sizable number of highly intelligent or talented children in the nation's classrooms who find little in the standard curriculum to rouse their interest and who often fall by the wayside. With schools under intense pressure from state and federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind to raise test scores of low-achieving pupils, the educational needs of gifted students -- who usually perform well on standardized tests -- too often are ignored, advocates say. Nationally, about 3 million kindergarten through 12th-grade students are identified as gifted, but 80% of them do not receive specialized instruction, experts say. Studies have found that 5% to 20% of students who drop out are gifted. There is no federal law mandating special programs for gifted children, though many educators argue that these students -- whose curiosity and creativity often coexist with emotional and social problems -- deserve the same status as those with special needs. Services for gifted students vary from state to state. In California, about 512,000 students are enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program, which aims to provide specialized and accelerated instruction.
Linda Scholl @ Wisconsin Center for Education Research: SCALE Case Study: Evolution of K-8 Science Instructional Guidance in Madison Metropolitan School District [PDF report]
In addition, by instituting a standards-based report card system K-8, the department has increased accountability for teaching to the standards. The Department is struggling, however, to sharpen its efforts to reduce the achievement gap. While progress has been made in third grade reading, significant gaps are still evident in other subject areas, including math and science. Educational equity issues within the school district are the source of much public controversy, with a relatively small but vocal parent community that is advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students. This has slowed efforts to implement strong academic equity initiatives, particularly at the middle and early high school levels. Nonetheless, T&L content areas specialists continue working with teachers to provide a rigorous curriculum and to differentiate instruction for all students. In that context, the new high school biology initiative represents a significant effort to raise the achievement of students of color and economic disadvantage.
WCER's tight relationship with the Madison School District has been the source of some controversy. Related: Scholl's error, in my view, is viewing the controversy as an issue of "advocating for directing greater resources toward meeting the needs of high achieving students". The real issue is raising standards for all, rathing than reducing the curriculum quality (see West High School Math teachers letter to the Isthmus:
Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator's office to phase out our "accelerated" course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum. It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined "success" as merely producing "fewer failures." Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?
) A friend mentioned a few years ago that the problems are in elementary and middle school. Rather than addressing those, the administration is trying to make high school changes. Thanks to a reader for sending along these links.

Teens exposed to world of biotech careers through partnership

Bernadette Tansey: The family culture of Berkeley's Hernandez clan is a cool blend of Mexican roots and Bay area savvy - jumpy banda music, quinceanera parties, spicy pico de gallo and genetic engineering experiments. That last part, the biotechnology, has been grafted onto the traditions Roberto and Irma Hernandez brought with them when the family immigrated to California in the late 1980s. Their arrival was timely - a new school program was about to welcome minority and disadvantaged kids to the biotech industry. Their oldest child, Roberto, was the pioneer at 15 when he took a chance on the unfamiliar subject at Berkeley High School in 1992. Over the years, he has persuaded his brother and two of his three...

Accelerated Biology Update: "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics"?

When last I wrote about the status of Accelerated Biology at West HS, I was waiting to hear back from Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash. I had written to Pam on June 8 about how the promised second section of the course never had a chance, given the statistical procedure they used to admit students for next year. On June 11, I wrote to Pam again, this time including Superintendent Rainwater. I said to them "I do hope one of you intends to respond to [my previous email]. I hope you appreciate what it looks like out in the community. Either the selection system was deliberately designed to preclude the need for two sections (in which case the promise of two...

Accelerated Biology at West HS Stands Still

I have a friend who is fond of saying "never ascribe to maliciousness that which can be accounted for by incompetence." These words have become a touchstone for me in my dealings with the Madison schools. I work harder than some people might ever believe to remember that every teacher, administrator and staff person I interact with is a human being, with real feelings, probably very stressed out and over-worked. I also do my best to remember to express gratitude and give kudos where they are due and encourage my sons to do the same. But recent events regarding Accelerated Biology at West HS -- and how that compares to things I have heard are happening at one of the...

More Than English 10: Let's REALLY Talk About Our High Schools

First, I want to say BRAVO, RUTH, for putting it all together and bringing it on home to us. Thanks, too, to the BOE members who overrode BOE President Johnny Winston Jr's decision to table this important discussion. Finally, deepest thanks to all of the East parents, students and teachers who are speaking out ... and to the many West parents, students and teachers who have also spoken out over the past few years. As we begin what will hopefully be a thoughtful and thoroughgoing community-wide conversation about what's going on in our high schools, I'd like to clear up some muddiness about what's happened at West in the past few years. I think it's important to have our facts...

MMSD Cross-High School Comparison -- continued

I recently posted a comparative list of the English courses offered to 9th and 10th graders at Madison's four high schools. The list showed clearly that West High School does not offer its high achieving and highly motivated 9th and 10th grade students the same appropriately challenging English classes that are offered at East, LaFollette and Memorial. Here is the yield from a similar comparison for 9th and 10th grade Social Studies and Science....

Clarification of plans for 9th and 10th grade science at West HS

If you were at the West HS PTSO meeting last night (report to be posted soon for anyone who was unable to attend -- the topic was an update on the SLC initiative by SLC Coordiator Heather Lott), then you know that the question of what 9th and 10th grade science will look like next year and thereafter was left somewhat unanswered. I had the following clarifying email exchange with West HS Principal Ed Holmes today:...

Reply to Carol Carstensen re: West HS

Dear Carol, First, let me say a hearty and heartfelt "thank you" for replying to my 12/2 email request -- and so promptly. One of the major frustrations parents have experienced over the many months we have been expressing our concerns about what's happening at West HS is the chronic non-responsiveness of the people we have been trying to dialogue with. (Frankly, I am continually amazed to see how little understanding District officials seem to have about how their silence makes difficult situations much, much worse than they need to be.) Also, I am glad to know that you see the issue of heterogeneous versus homogeneous grouping in classrooms as "a broader policy issue" that the BOE has a responsibility...

West HS English 9 and 10: Show us the data!

Here is a synopsis of the English 10 situation at West HS. Currently -- having failed to receive any reply from BOE Performance and Achievement Committee Chair Shwaw Vang to our request that he investigate this matter and provide an opportunity for public discussion -- we are trying to get BOE President Carol Carstensen to put a discussion of the English 10 proposal (and the apparent lack of data supporting its implementation) on the agenda for a BOE meeting. Aside from the fact that there is serious doubt that the course, as proposed, will meet the educational needs of the high and low end students, it is clear we are witnessing yet another example of school officials making radical curricular...

A History of Changes at West

Last spring a longtime parent at West HS was asked to write a description -- content area by content area -- of the curriculum changes that have occurred at West HS in recent years that have affected the academic opportunities of West's "high end" students. Below you will find what she wrote. It includes changes that have actually occurred; changes that may and probably will occur; and important questions about what else may happen in the future. This summary was then forwarded to two other longtime West parents for their comments. Excerpts from those comments may be found just after the original description. Next, the description of each content area was sent to the appropriate department head at West, for...

Curriculum Changes Proposed at West High

As discussion continues over the lack of AP courses at West High School relative to the other three Madison high schools, West prepares to further reduce the course opportunities for students. Many West parents wrote this past spring and summer to Principal Ed Holmes, Science Chair Mike Lipp, and District Science Coordinator Lisa Wachtel advocating for more not fewer sections of Accelerated Biology. Parents have also written to express concern about plans to homogenize the 10th grade English curriuculum, eliminating the options currently available to 10th graders, and requiring students to wait until 11th grade before they can take elective courses in English. There had been no response to these concerns until a recent letter went out at the end...

West again proposes eliminating Accelerated Biology

Information from West High reveals that once again the Accelerated Biology course is being slated for the chopping block. The cutting of this course is being proposed as part of the initiative to maintain all inclusive, heterogeneous classrooms. Proponents of this cut, propose an alternative "Honors" designation for interested students who wish to be challenged above the standard course curriculum. Under this proposal, these "honors" students would do additional work alongside the standard curriculum that they would be completing in the heterogeneous classroom. It was just this past spring, that a community letter writing campaign kept the accelerated biology class from being eliminated. If interested in sharing your thoughts on this program cut, please contact Mike Lipp, Science Dept. chair,...

Feed Subscription

If you use an RSS reader, you can subscribe to a feed of all future entries matching 'Accelerated Biology'. [What is this?]

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to feed