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Madison schools look to make discipline about growth, not punishment

Pat Schneider:

But statistics showing African-American students in the district were eight times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than white students last year raises questions about whether the discipline code works against efforts to close the achievement gap. Among big school districts reconsidering such measures is Broward County in Florida, where a zero-tolerance policy led to arrests for such infractions as possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti, the New York Times reports. That district, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, entered into an agreement last month with community organizations to overhaul its policies to de-emphasize punishment. School districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver are undertaking similar reviews of get-tough policies. "Everybody knows that suspensions don't always achieve a change in behavior," says Tim Ritchie, dean of students at Madison Memorial High School. "When we send some kids out of school (on suspension) they don't have anywhere appropriate to go -- their homes can be very chaotic environments."
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Madison Schools' Behavior Report: 2012-2013



Madison School District PDF:

1. Both out-of-school and in-school suspensions were less common in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In particular, the reduction in out-of-school suspensions led to nearly 600 fewer days of instruction lost to suspensions. 2. Large disproportionalities exist between suspensions and demographics in MMSD. For example, African- American students make up 19% of MMSD's population but received 60% of out-of-school suspensions. Low- income students make up 48% of MMSD but received 85% of suspensions. 3. There are large disparities in discipline practices between schools. For example, among elementary schools, out-of-school suspensions ranged between 0 and 98, and behavior referrals ranged between 25 and 2,319.
Related: Madison School Board discipline presentation (PDF) and a Wisconsin DPI FAQ (PDF). Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum (2005) audio & video and Police calls to and near Madison schools: 1996-2006.

Poverty and Food: Why do so many people in poor countries eat so badly--and what can be done about it?

The Economist:

IN ELDORADO, one of São Paulo's poorest and most misleadingly named favelas, some eight-year-old boys are playing football on a patch of ground once better known for drug gangs and hunger. Although they look the picture of health, they are not. After the match they gather around a sack of bananas beside the pitch. "At school, the kids get a full meal every day," explains Jonathan Hannay, the secretary-general of Children at Risk Foundation, a local charity. "But in the holidays they come to us without breakfast or lunch so we give them bananas. They are filling, cheap, and they stimulate the brain." Malnutrition used to be pervasive and invisible in Eldorado. Now there is less of it and, equally important, it is no longer hidden. "It has become more visible--so people are doing something about it."

Autonomy for schools is producing some remarkable successes. Can others learn from them?

The Economist::

DANIEL RILEY, a young trainee teacher from west London, attended a school so bad that it was shut down while he was there. It was, he recalls with commendable understatement, an "unstructured" place. Fewer than 20% of pupils achieved five good GCSE passes, including mathematics and English (the main benchmark for secondary students, involving exams commonly taken at 16). There were fights. Some, involving knives, ended with arrests. There were drugs--the school drew its pupils from tough housing estates, and gangs prowled at the gates. The teaching was "not inspired," Mr Riley says, sticking with the understatement. He recalls lessons spent copying texts from books. As happened to a few dozen failing institutions under the previous Labour government, Mr Riley's school was turned into an academy--a state school removed from local council control and given new freedoms over staffing and teaching methods. Six years on, Paddington Academy draws its pupils from the same estates. But the school is unrecognisable.

Why You Should Postpone College

Brett Nelson:

Very soon, millions of high-schoolers will run a nerve-rattling gauntlet, perhaps for weeks: They will yank open their mailboxes and flip through the envelopes like one of those rapid-fire, dollar-bill sorting machines in all the gangster movies. Girth--that's what they're after. Because the plumper the package, the better the odds it contains that which matters most: a college acceptance letter! Before triumph and tragedy ensue, I have a modest proposal for the future class of 2016. No matter what happens in the coming weeks, grab some solitude and contemplate one very important question: Am I really ready for college?

Arrests, citations reach lowest level in 10 years at Madison high schools

Matthew DeFour:

The number of arrests and citations for incidents at Madison's four main high schools dropped last year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to police data. But arrests and citations at West and Memorial were twice the number at East and La Follette -- a reversal of the situation 10 years earlier when there were more than twice as many at the city's East Side high schools. West was the only school with an increase from the previous year. The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Madison Police Department amid a debate over whether the Madison School District should use drug-sniffing police dogs in random sweeps of high schools. The School Board was to consider the issue Monday but delayed a vote until late September -- in part to review the arrest and citation data. District officials say an increase in drug-related disciplinary referrals in recent years, and the use of drug dogs in area school districts, support the use of police dogs. Community surveys also have showed strong support. Luis Yudice, the School District's security coordinator, who introduced the drug-sniffing dog proposal with the support of Madison police, is concerned drugs in schools can lead to more gang activity, fights and weapons in schools as students arm themselves in self-defense. He views the police dog policy as a possible deterrent that could prevent a crisis.
Related: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006. Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio/Video.

Teacher Collaboration Gives Schools Better Results

Melinda Burns:

Five years ago, Sparks Middle School hit bottom. Its test scores were some of the worst in the district. A chain-link fence was locked after hours to prevent gangs from tagging the open-air hallways. Between classes, members of rival tagging crews would fight. Word came down to the La Puente, Calif., school from the Los Angeles County Office of Education: We may shut you down if you don't come up with a plan. Sparks embarked on a makeover. Sherri Franson, the school's new principal, took down the chain-link fence because she thought it made the school look like a jail. She lengthened the school day by 20 minutes, increased the number of periods from six to seven and hired two literacy coaches. Low-scoring students were required to take double periods of math or English. Every student received a "glory binder" and was taught how to take notes.

The Kapors' SMASH Academy is filling an education gap

Mike Cassidy:

Give a kid a chance and you'll be amazed at what happens next. That thought kept rolling through my mind as I surveyed the controlled chaos that was lunch for 80 teenagers who'd moved onto Stanford's campus to take five summer weeks of intensive math and science courses. I know. What's so different about a passel of brilliant kids studying hard stuff at Stanford? Well, for one thing, a pessimist might look at these particular kids working their way through hamburgers, chicken and mashed potatoes, and conclude that they are not college material. In fact, the vast majority of them would be the first in their families to go to college. Nearly all of them attend high schools where most students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Some live in tough neighborhoods. Some dodge gangs on the way to and from school -- and maybe even at school. But that's not what defines them. Not at all. The kids at Stanford, members of the inaugural class of the Silicon Valley version of the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH), are energetic, optimistic, determined, resourceful and approaching brilliant.

Study Questions School Discipline Effectiveness

Alan Schwarz:: Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece.When also considering less serious infractions punished by in-school suspensions, the rate climbed to nearly 60 percent, according to the study by the Council of State Governments, with one in seven students facing such disciplinary measures at least 11 times.The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the...

Carol Moseley Braun Answers: As Mayor of Chicago, How Will You Fix Education?

Fox Chicago News:

1. What criteria will you use in selecting the next CEO of the Chicago Public Schools? I support hiring a superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools with a strong and proven track-record in education. Strong managerial skills and the ability to work with community leaders, parents, and teachers will also be extremely important qualities I will consider as mayor. 2. What will you do to keep the students who are in Chicago Public Schools safe? I believe schools must be places where the community comes together. Parents, local businesses, community organizations, and local law enforcement must all play a role in providing a safe and secure space of learning for Chicago's youth. As Senator, I was sponsor of the Midnight Basketball program, which brought local youth together with local police officers. I will provide an educational curriculum with more art, drama, and music classes to keep more students in school and engaged in activities to keep the gangs at bay. In addition, vocational training will provide students with the skills to be more competitive in the workforce and less likely to join gangs.

A fatal failure long ago gives a new principal a mission

Alan Borsuk

Jim Wilkinson took it personally when Juan Perez murdered two men. Certainly he had sympathy for the victims, Joseph Rivera and Michael Ralston. But he didn't know them. The issue was Perez. Wilkinson felt he barely knew him - and that was the problem. Perez had been one of Wilkinson's students the previous year when Perez was 15 and a freshman at Marquette University High School. Almost everybody at Marquette High barely knew Perez. He never asked for help. He stayed to himself. He got mediocre grades, but he wasn't failing. And he left the school after that freshman year. Instead, he got involved deeply with a gang. A tense, angry confrontation between members of two gangs in a restaurant on Feb. 13, 1993. A slap. Insults. A couple guns. And, in short order, the teenager was receiving a 60-year sentence. Almost 18 years later, both Perez and Wilkinson feel they have changed for the better.

Madison schools working with Metro to curb bad bus behavior

Matthew DeFour:

Responding to safety concerns about bullying, fights and unruly behavior on student bus routes, Metro Transit is working with the Madison School District to impose sanctions against disruptive students. Starting as early as mid-January, Metro officials may limit bus access for students who misbehave in ways that don't currently result in penalties -- such as vandalism, throwing objects, horseplay, and loud or vulgar language. Unruly students with unlimited bus passes could receive a limited pass that would only cover travel to and from school. Currently, those passes allow students to ride buses throughout the city at any time. Though Metro now has cameras on all of its buses, students, particularly those in middle school, are still misbehaving, school district security coordinator Luis Yudice said. Some students are bullied to the point that they arm themselves with knives or join gangs for protection, he said.

Crimes Rattle Madison Schools

Susan Troller, via a kind reader's email:

It's been a rough week in Madison schools, with the first degree sexual assault of a student in a stairwell at East High School and an alleged mugging at Jefferson Middle School. The sexual assault occurred on Thursday afternoon, according to police reports. The 15-year-old victim knew the alleged assailant, also 15, and he was arrested and charged at school. On Wednesday, two 13-year-old students at Jefferson allegedly mugged another student at his locker, grabbing him from behind and using force to try to steal his wallet. The police report noted that all three students fell to the floor. According to a letter sent to Jefferson parents on Friday, "the student yelled loudly, resisted the attempt and went immediately to report the incident. The students involved in the attempted theft were immediately identified and detained in the office." The mugging was not reported to police until Thursday morning and Jefferson parents did not learn about the incident until two days after the incident. When police arrived at school on Thursday, they arrested two students in the attempted theft. Parents at East were notified Thursday of the sexual assault. Luis Yudice, Madison public schools safety chief, said it was unusual for police not to be notified as soon as the alleged strong arm robbery was reported to school officials.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio & Video and police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006.

Teen Accused Of Sexual Assault At Madison's East High School

A Madison East High School student has been arrested and charged on suspicion of sexually assaulting another student on school grounds this week. Madison police said the 15-year-old boy was arrested on a charge of first-degree sexual assault on Thursday after a 15-year-old girl reported the incident. Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District, said while these cases are rare, they happen and it forces district officials to take a step back and look how this could have been prevented. Officials sent a letter home to parents to explain the incident and the district's next steps. "We're going to work real hard to deal with it, we're going to work real hard to learn from it. We're going to work real hard to make any necessary changes after we have a change to review what all of these facts and circumstances are," Nerad said. Nerad said that while there are things the district can do to prevent such incidents, he believes much more help is needed from the community. He said the fact that this type of activity has entered the school door should be a wake up call to society.
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio & Video and police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006.

On education, reform must be Item 1

Ed Allen

Proponents of State Question 744 are working hard and spending a good deal of money to get a square peg into a round hole. Advocates of SQ 744 don't seem to realize that the educational landscape has changed; they continue to see public education in one shape, with everyone else seeing another. Proponents of SQ 744 see dollars first; opponents see reform first. Teachers know better than anyone the challenges brought on by poverty, absentee parents, English language learners, gangs, addiction, etc. In Oklahoma City we know it first hand -- our teachers are dedicated professionals because they do what most cannot or will not do, which is to work in an urban environment. Because of our firsthand knowledge, we know reform is an absolute must. While we cannot control some factors, there are many we can. The Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, long a proponent of reform, is leading the way to quality schools and improved student achievement.

Wisconsin State Journal Removes This Story

The Madison School District's Ken Syke via email:

Jim, I've been made aware of the entry on the School Info Systems site about La Follette student taking gun to school. That story has been retracted by madison.com and thus the story excerpt on the the SIS site is not supported any longer. It's our understanding that this madison.com story will remain retracted. Thus we request that the story excerpt be pulled from the School Info Systems site. Thank you.
I phoned (608) 252-6120 the Wisconsin State Journal (part of Capital Newspapers, which owns madison.com) and spoke with Jason (I did not ask his last name) today at about 2:20p.m. I asked about the status of this story [Dane County Case Number: 2010CF001460, Police call data via Crime Reports COMMUNITY POLICING 03 Sep 2010 1 BLOCK ASH ST Distance: 0 miles Identifier: 201000252977 Suspicious Vehicle Agency: City of Madison]. He spoke with another person, returned to the phone and said that a police officer phoned the reporter, Sandy Cullen and said the report she mentioned was incorrect. They then took the article down. I asked him to email me this summary, which I will post upon receipt. Links from the original post: Related:

Madison West High gang incident raises specter of retaliation

Sandy Cullen:

An armed altercation Friday outside West High School involving known and suspected members of two street gangs involved in an April homicide heightened concerns of possible retaliation, police and school officials said Tuesday. Sgt. Amy Schwartz, who leads the Madison Police Department's Crime Prevention Gang Unit, said it is not known if members of the South Side Carnales gang went to the high school looking for members of the rival Clanton 14, or C-14 gang. But staff at West and the city's three other main high schools and two middle schools were told Tuesday to determine if safety plans are needed for any students who might be at risk, said Luis Yudice, security coordinator for the Madison School District. Police have not notified the School District of a specific threat against any student, Yudice said. But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison's C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student. Five people, who police say are associated with the South Side Carnales and MS-13 gangs, are charged in Perez's slaying. Two of them remain at large.
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video. A kind reader noted this quote from the article:
"But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison's C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student."
Much more here. Sgt. Amy Schwartz, who leads the Madison Police Department's Crime Prevention Gang Unit, said it is not known if members of the South Side Carnales gang went to the high school looking for members of the rival Clanton 14, or C-14 gang. But staff at West and the city's three other main high schools and two middle schools were told Tuesday to determine if safety plans are needed for any students who might be at risk, said Luis Yudice, security coordinator for the Madison School District. Police have not notified the School District of a specific threat against any student, Yudice said. But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison's C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student. Five people, who police say are associated with the South Side Carnales and MS-13 gangs, are charged in Perez's slaying. Two of them remain at large.Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video. A kind reader noted this quote from the article:
"But authorities have been concerned about possible retaliation since the April 28 shooting death of Antonio Perez, 19, who police say founded Madison's C-14 gang several years ago while he was a high school student."

Gang activity in Madison often flies under public radar

Wisconsin State Journal:

A few years ago, a Madison gang targeted a prominent detective for murder. That plot failed. But police say gangs have been responsible for at least three murders in the last three years. Although there are now more than 1,100 gang members in the Madison area, they're not always visible. Nor is the connection between gangs and crime. Regardless, police and social workers say the gang problem here is real and they're actively trying to combat it.
Gangs & School violence forum audio / video.

As the Madison school year starts, a pair of predicaments

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader:

In fact, the changing face of Madison's school population comes up consistently in other interviews with public officials. Police Chief Noble Wray commented recently that gang influences touch even some elementary schools, and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz expressed serious concern last week that the young families essential to the health and vitality of Madison are too often choosing to live outside the city based on perceptions of the city's schools. Nerad says he saw the mayor's remarks, and agrees the challenge is real. While numbers for this fall will not be available for weeks, the number of students who live in Madison but leave the district for some alternative through "open enrollment" will likely continue to grow. "For every one child that comes in there are two or three going out," Nerad says, a pattern he says he sees in other urban districts. "That is the challenge of quality urban districts touched geographically by quality suburban districts." The number of "leavers" grew from 90 students as recently as 2000-01 to 613 last year, though the increase might be at least partly attributed to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that greatly curtailed the ability of school districts to use race when deciding where students will go to school. In February 2008, the Madison School Board ended its long-standing practice of denying open enrollment requests if they would create a racial imbalance. Two key reasons parents cited in a survey last year for moving children were the desire for better opportunities for gifted students and concerns about bullying and school safety. School Board member Lucy Mathiak told me last week that board members continue to hear those two concerns most often. Nerad hears them too, and he says that while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district. On safety, he points to a recent district policy on bullying as evidence of focus on the problem, including emphasis on what he calls the "bystander" issue, in which witnesses need to report bullying in a way that has not happened often enough. For all the vexing issues, though, Nerad says much is good about city schools and that perceptions are important. "Let's be careful not to stereotype the urban school district," he says. "There is a lot at stake here."
Related: the growth in outbound open enrollment from the Madison School District and ongoing budget issues, including a 10% hike in property taxes this year and questions over 2005 maintenance referendum spending. The significant property tax hike and ongoing budget issues may be fodder for the upcoming April, 2011 school board election, where seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot. Superintendent Nerad's statement on "ensuring that we have a stable middle class" is an important factor when considering K-12 tax and spending initiatives, particularly in the current "Great Recession" where housing values are flat or declining and the property tax appetite is increasing (The Tax Foundation, via TaxProf:
The Case-Shiller index, a popular measure of residential home values, shows a drop of almost 16% in home values across the country between 2007 and 2008. As property values fell, one might expect property tax collections to have fallen commensurately, but in most cases they did not. Data on state and local taxes from the U.S. Census Bureau show that most states' property owners paid more in FY 2008 (July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008) than they had the year before (see Table 1). Nationwide, property tax collections increased by more than 4%. In only four states were FY 2008's collections lower than in FY 2007: Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. And in three states--Florida, Indiana and New Mexico--property tax collections rose more than 10%.
It will be interesting to see what the Madison school District's final 2010-2011 budget looks like. Spending and receipts generally increase throughout the year. This year, in particular, with additional borrowed federal tax dollars on the way, the District will have funds to grow spending, address the property tax increase or perhaps as is now increasingly common, spend more on adult to adult professional development. Madison's K-12 environment is ripe for change. Perhaps the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy charter school will ignite the community.

Who's teaching L.A.'s kids? A Times "Value Added" analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world -- the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs. Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what's best. The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book. Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents. It's their teachers. With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith's pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar's but by the end of the year have been far behind.
Much more on "Value Added Assessment" and teacher evaluations here. Locally, Madison's Value Added Assessment evaluations are based on the oft criticized WKCE.

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