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Madison School Climate, Achievement, Rhetoric & The New Superintendent







In light of Alan Borsuk's positive article, I thought it timely understand the mountain to be climbed by our traditional $15k/student public school district. The charts above are a brief update of the always useful "Where have all the Students Gone" articles. Further, early tenure cheerleading is not a new subject. Those interested might dive into the Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal Superintendent (recently easily searched, now rather difficult) archive: Cheryl Wilhoyte (1,569) SIS Art Rainwater (2,124) SIS Dan Nerad (275) SIS That being said, Superintendent Cheatham's comments are worth following:

Cheatham's ideas for change don't involve redoing structure. "I'd rather stick with an imperfect structure," she said, and stay focused on the heart of her vision: building up the quality and effectiveness of teaching. Improving teaching is the approach that will have the biggest impact on the gaps, she said. "The heart of the endeavor is good teaching for all kids," Cheatham said in an interview. Madison, she said, has not defined what good teaching is and it needs to focus on that. It's not just compliance with directives, she said.
Perhaps the State Journal's new K-12 reporter might dive into what is actually happening in the schools. Related: Madison's long term disastrous reading results and "When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed...and not before".

Successful (Madison) achievement plan will cost plenty -- just maybe not in dollars

Chris Rickert:

The ill-fated charter school Madison Preparatory Academy would have cost Madison School District taxpayers about $17.5 million over five years to start addressing the district's long-standing minority and low-income achievement gaps. The achievement gap plan introduced by former superintendent Dan Nerad shortly after Madison Prep crashed and burned would have cost about $105 million over five years. Before being adopted, it was whittled down to about $49 million. And the so-called "strategic framework" proposed last week by new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham? Nada. "The really exciting news is we have all the ingredients to be successful," she told this newspaper. No doubt that could be thinking so wishful it borders on delusion or, worse, code for "we're not really all that interested in closing the gap anyway." But it could also be a harbinger of real change. "The framework isn't meant to be compared to the achievement gap plan," district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said. It's "not about an array of new initiatives with a big price tag" but about focusing "on the day-to-day work of teaching and learning" and "what we know works."
Related: The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: "Same Service" vs. "having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district"..

Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the "NSA's European Adventure"

The Madison School District's recent rhetoric around annual property tax increases (after a significant increase in redistributed state tax dollars last year and a "return to normal" this year) is, to the ongoing observer, unsurprising. We appear to be in the Rainwater era "same service" approach to everything, from million$ spent on a partially implemented Infinite Campus to long-term disastrous reading scores. Steve Coll's 5 July 2013 New Yorker column nails it:

The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President's behalf, the operation's potential costs in the event of exposure. America's post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?
Much more on annual local property tax increases, here:
The Madison School Board should limit the school property tax hike to the rate of inflation next year, even if that means scaling back a proposed 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for school district employees, says member Mary Burke. "I think in an environment where we've seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate," Burke said Tuesday in an interview. ... But School Board discussions have focused around reducing the proposed salary hike, and cutting back on facility maintenance to pare down the $392 million proposed budget enough to bring the property tax increase to 4 or 5 percent, board President Ed Hughes told me. The district under state law could increase its levy by as much as $18,385,847 or 9 percent. Keeping the increase to around the rate of inflation would mean an increase of less 2 percent. ... Board member TJ Mertz can't vote on salaries because his wife is a teacher's aide with the school district, he told me, but he has long been outspoken in his belief in good pay for teachers to ensure the best academic achievement for students. "As a citizen, I understand our staff needs to be compensated," he said, adding that teachers have taken losses in take-home pay since they were required to begin making contributions to their pensions in 2011. "If the state won't invest in our children, it has to come from the property tax," he said. Mertz said he would prefer a tax increase steeper than the 4 percent or 5 percent the board as a whole is focusing on. "I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is invest in our students; the question should not be what property tax levy can we afford," he said.
I appreciate Schneider's worthwhile questions, including a discussion of "program reviews":
Several School Board members interviewed for this story stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will be a transitional one, before a broad re-evaluation of spending planned by Cheatham can be conducted.
Yet, it would be useful to ask if in fact programs will be reviewed and those found wanting eliminated. The previous Superintendent, Dan Nerad, discussed program reviews as well. Madison Schools' 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers. The Madison School Board seat currently occupied by Mr. Hughes (Seat 7, and Seat 6 - presently Marj Passman) will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot (candidate information is available at the Madison City Clerk's website).










Fascinating: UW education dean warns school boards that ALEC seeks to wipe them out

Pat Schneider:

ALEC is still at it, Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, cautions in "School Boards Beware," (PDF) a commentary in the May issue of Wisconsin School News. The model legislation disseminated by the pro-free market American Legislative Exchange Council's national network of corporate members and conservative legislators seeks to privatize education and erode the local control, Underwood says. "The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking -- but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight," she writes in the magazine of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Underwood, who says that Wisconsin public schools already face unprecedented change, last year co-authored a piece about ALEC's grander plans, a "legislative contagion (that) seemed to sweep across the Midwest during the early months of 2011." In her recent piece, Underwood argues that a push to privatize education for the "free market" threatens the purpose of public education: to educate every child to "become an active citizen, capable of participating in our democratic process."
Related:
  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state -- including Madison's Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools -- are part of Wisconsin's new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher's success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in 2014-15.li>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.

Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she's no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher -- even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license.

"I think that's really unfortunate," says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.Related:

Management personnel decisions of Green Bay schools questioned

Randall A. Sanderson:

Months ago, the Green Bay Press-Gazette published salaries of public school teachers, but the management personnel weren't included in the disclosures. Here's what the public record has shown in recent years about the Green Bay School District and advantages. After veteran schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad took a promotion out of the area, the School Board hired a replacement at a 24 percent increase in salary. That unprecedented jump in pay created the incentive for Greg Maass to leave his old superintendent position in Fond du Lac during their flood damage crisis. He stayed with Green Bay public schools long enough for his salary increase to raise his retirement payout and then left early to head a district on the East Coast.

May, 2012 Madison School District "Key Performance Indicators" - Attendance - Presented at a Strategic Plan Update Meeting












528K Powerpoint Presentation. Via a kind reader.

Notes and links on the Madison School District's "Strategic Planning Process", begun under former Superintendent Dan Nerad.
528K Powerpoint Presentation. Via a kind reader.

"High Quality Madison Teachers" vs. "New Programs Every Few Years", "Plenty of Resource$"; Madison's latest Superintendent Arrives

Matthew DeFour:

"I have no doubt that the way we're going to improve student achievement is by focusing on what happens in the classroom," Cheatham said. Clash with unions Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews and others say poverty drives the achievement gap more so than classroom factors. "We do have a high-quality teaching force in Madison -- it's been that way for years," Matthews said. He added that one challenge he'd like to see Cheatham address is the administration's tendency to adopt new programs every few years. Cheatham's salary will be $235,000, 17 percent more than predecessor Dan Nerad. Unlike Nerad, a former Green Bay social worker and superintendent, Cheatham has never led an organization. She also hasn't stayed in the same job for more than two years since she was a teacher in Newark, Calif., from 1997 to 2003. Mitchell, who beat out Cheatham for the top job at Partners in School Innovation where she worked for a year before moving to Chicago, said Cheatham has the talent to become schools chief in a major city like Chicago or New York in seven to 10 years. That's a benefit for Madison because Cheatham is on the upswing of her career and must succeed in order to advance, Mitchell said. "The thing about Madison that's kind of exciting is there's plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it," Mitchell said. "It's kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does."
Related: A history of Madison Superintendent experiences. I asked the three (! - just one in 2013) 2008 Madison school board candidates (Gallon, Nerad or McIntyre), if they supported "hiring the best teachers and getting out of the way", or a "top down" approach where the District administration's department of "curriculum done our way" working in unison with Schools of Education, grant makers and other third parties attempt to impose teaching models on staff. Union intransigence is one of the reasons (in my view) we experience administrative attempts to impose curricula via math or reading "police". I would prefer to see a "hire the best and let them teach - to high global standards" approach. Simplify and focus on the basics: reading, writing, math and science.

School Board votes to end dual-language immersion program at Chavez

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board voted Monday night to discontinue the district's dual-language immersion program at Chavez Elementary next year. Current students will continue for one more year in the program, which offers a mix of Spanish and English instruction to both native Spanish and English speakers. Next year the district plans to work with families on how to continue the only dual-language program in the Memorial High School attendance area into the future, but there is no guarantee that it will continue. The school district recommended discontinuing the program because of a shortage of Spanish-speaking families interested in participating. The program has been operating with some classes that have only native English speakers, which the board had not approved.
I wonder how much of the previous Superintendent's initiatives (Dan Nerad) will unravel. Better to focus on the core reading issues, in my humble opinion.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham to start April 1 after contract OK'd

Jeff Glaze:Incoming Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham will begin her new role in just a matter of weeks. April 1 is the start date specified in Cheatham's contract, which the School Board unanimously approved Wednesday evening. The date is significantly earlier than the July 1 start date of her predecessor, Dan Nerad. School Board President James Howard said the goal was to begin the transition to the new superintendent right away. "We didn't have a superintendent, and we wanted to get a superintendent on board as soon as possible," he said. Cheatham will make $235,000 annually -- the same amount the School Board offered her last month. That amount is higher than Nerad's $201,000 salary but less than the...

The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013 Dear Madison Leaders. As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, "Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?"...as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools. While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago. Here is how things transpired. On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher's Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA's cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn't get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn't support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school. The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League's focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John's desire to have Madison Prep's employees be a part of MTI's collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep's teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher's union represent our educators. John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we "had a deal", that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved. Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought. Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from. That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position. But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt "a deal is a deal". When you shake hands, you follow through. We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through - jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way - $200K worth of hurdles (that's how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011). On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That's when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn't get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years. Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master's degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI's suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn't once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue. Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years' experience and a master's degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners. When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn't have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined. After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story. Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, "an Angry Black Man". Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place - because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then. Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn't support Madison Prep. He didn't call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address? If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools. So, for those who were unaware and those who've been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don't make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let's be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward. Thank you for reading. We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well. Onward. Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work Kaleem Caire President & CEO Urban League of Greater Madison Main: 608.729.1200 Assistant: 608.729.1249 Fax: 608.729.1205 www.ulgm.org www.madison-prep.org Invest in the Urban League Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report
The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)
MEMORANDUM Date: August 23, 2011 To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc. From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship Greetings John. I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be. Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.
  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.
  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl's collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep's leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.
I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the relationship as well. Respectfully, Kaleem Caire, President & CEO CONFIDENTIAL
336K PDF Version jpg version Related Links: Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School (Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board). Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on "the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.". John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc. Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League The rejected Studio Charter School. Union politics. 2013 Madison School Board Elections. Update: Matthew DeFour's article on Caire's message:
Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn't dispute Caire's account of the board action, but couldn't recall exactly what happened in the board's closed sessions. "Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes," Mathiak said. "It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness." Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire's proposal to hire nonunion staff. "What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution," Matthews said. "What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers." Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

All Madison elementary students should get mental health tests

Matthew DeFour

The Madison School District should screen all elementary school students for mental health problems and develop school-based mental health clinics for older students, according to a district task force. The Mental Health Task Force said in a report to the School Board on Monday that dwindling community resources, poor communication between service providers and school psychologists, and minority students not accessing mental health services to the same degree as their white peers are problems that need to be addressed. "These are huge issues," district chief of staff Steve Hartley said. "The president is talking about it. The governor is talking about it." The report comes as mental health has taken on greater prominence in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a $30 million increase for spending on mental health services in his 2013-15 budget. The report includes seven recommendations of a mental health task force formed nearly two years ago by former superintendent Dan Nerad.
Wow. As an aside, it is quite fascinating that DeFour's article lacks any links, much less to the report (255K PDF). What year is it?

Change is the Only Path to Better Schools

Chris Rickert:

Shortly after Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad resigned last year, School Board member Ed Hughes told me that when it comes to the Madison School District, "People want improvement, but they don't want change." I thought about Hughes' words last weekend after the school district announced it had hired Chicago Public Schools chief of instruction Jennifer Cheatham as Nerad's replacement. Cheatham is seen as the best bet for improvement -- specifically to the long history of low-income and minority student under-achievement. The question now is: Will people tolerate her changes? Hughes told me Sunday he was "optimistic" they would. "I think she will earn teachers' trust and inspire them to do their best work," he said. "If she succeeds at that, everything else will fall into place." I hope he's right, but I don't yet share his optimism. Back in 2011, it was the district's long-standing inability to do anything bold about the achievement gap that left it vulnerable to the Urban League of Greater Madison's bid to open its own charter school for minority and low-income students. Madison Preparatory Academy brought the issue of the achievement gap to the fore. But the school's rejection -- largely due to opposition from the teachers union -- left notoriously progressive Madison doing some uncomfortable soul-searching.
Related: And so it continues.....

Madison School Board could shake things up, in a good way

Chris Rickert:

Five years ago, people were praising newly named Madison schools superintendent Dan Nerad as a paragon of listening skills and inclusiveness -- a trained social worker who seemingly never burned a bridge in his life. By contrast, Milton, the current superintendent at the Springfield (Ill.) school district, and Chicago School District administrator Jennifer Cheatham seem willing to upset the apple cart if they think it will help students. School Board president James Howard told me the board's focus was not to find candidates who would shake things up because, overall, Madison remains a quality district that doesn't need a whole lot of shaking. Rather "the issue" -- or, as he later clarified, one the most important issues -- "is one thing: the achievement gap." And the board certainly wanted to know if candidates had "the kind of will to make the kind of changes" to tackle that problem, he said. "To demonstrate success, you have to be from a district that has some diversity."
Much more on the Madison School District's latest Superintendent search, here.

Madison Superintendent Candidate Roundup: It Seems Unlikely that One Person will Drive Significant Change

Amy Barrilleaux:

After paying an Iowa-based headhunting firm $30,975 to develop a candidate profile and launch a three-month nationwide recruitment effort, and after screening 65 applications, the Madison school board has narrowed its superintendent search down to two finalists. Dr. Jenifer Cheatham is chief of instruction for Chicago Public Schools, and Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., is superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in Illinois. Parents and community members will get a chance to meet both finalists at a forum at Monona Terrace starting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday night. But despite the exhaustive and expensive search, the finalists aren't without flaws. Cheatham was appointed to her current post as chief of instruction in June of 2011 by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who has since resigned. According to her Chicago district bio, Cheatham's focus is improving urban school districts by "developing instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning." Cheatham received a master's and doctorate in education from Harvard and began her career as an 8th grade English teacher. But she found herself in a harsh spotlight as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district officials pushed for a contentious 7.5 hour school day last year, which became one of many big issues that led to the Chicago teachers strike in September. "It was handled horribly in terms of how it was rolled out," says Chicago attorney Matt Farmer, who also blogs about Chicago school issues for The Huffington Post. Farmer says pressure was mounting last spring for the district to explain how the longer day would work and how it would be paid for. Cheatham was sent to a community meeting he attended on the city's south side to explain the district's position.
Some of candidate Walter Milton Jr.'s history a surprise to School Board president
Madison School Board president James Howard said Monday he wasn't aware of some of the controversial aspects of Walter Milton Jr.'s history until after the board named him a finalist to be Madison's next superintendent. Prior to becoming superintendent in Springfield, Ill., Milton was criticized for hiring without a background check a colleague who had been convicted of child molestation in Georgia. The colleague, Julius B. Anthony, was forced to resign from a $110,000 job in Flint, Mich., after a background check uncovered the case, according to the Springfield State Journal-Register. Milton and Anthony were former business partners and worked together in Fallsburg, N.Y., where Milton was superintendent before moving to Flint, according to news reports.
Steven Verburg: Jennifer Cheatham fought for big changes in Chicago schools:
"Jennifer Cheatham will be the third person in the last two years from our administration who I've been a reference for who has taken over a fairly significant school district," Vitale said. "Chicago is a pretty good breeding place for leaders."
Matthew DeFour:
A Springfield School District spokesman said Milton is declining interviews until a community forum in Madison on Thursday. Prior to Fallsburg, Milton was a teacher and principal in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. He received a bachelor's degree in African history and African-American studies from Albany State University, a master's degree in education from the State University of New York College at Brockport and a Ph.D. in education from the University of Buffalo. Milton's contract in Springfield expires at the end of the 2013-14 school year. His current salary is $220,000 plus about $71,000 in benefits.
School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide
Madison School Board member Marj Passman says she was looking for superintendent candidates who have had experience working in contentious communities. "That's important, considering what we've gone through here," she told me Monday. And what Madison schools are going through now. The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates -- Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. -- before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned. And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years -- a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district -- remain unresolved. So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says.
What are the odds that the traditional governance approach will substantively address Madison's number one, long term challenge? Reading.... Much more on the latest Madison Superintendent search, here along with a history of Madison Superintendent experiences, here.

Madison School Board members want a superintendent with vision, passion and a thick hide

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District had scarcely released the names of the two finalist candidates -- Jennifer Cheatham, a top administrator in the Chicago Public School System and Walter Milton Jr., superintendent of the schools in Springfield, Ill. -- before the online background checks began and comments questioning the competency of the candidates were posted. So the new Madison superintendent has to be someone who can stand up to public scrutiny, Passman reasoned. And the issues that provoked the combative debate of the last couple of years -- a race-based achievement gap and charter school proposal meant to address it that proved so divisive that former Superintendent Dan Nerad left the district -- remain unresolved. So, Passman figured, any new superintendent would need experience working with diverse student populations. Both Cheatham and Milton fit that bill, Passman says. Madison School Board members had 90-minute interviews with a pool of semifinalists before selecting Cheatham and Milton, and will interview them again on Thursday. The candidates also will appear at a public forum that starts at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Monona Terrace Convention Center.
Much more on Madison Superintendents past, present and future, here.

Madison Superintendent's Mental Health Task Force: Preliminary Recommendations

Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (300K PDF):

Mental Health touches all of us. We pay tremendous immediate and long-term costs when students' mental health needs are not met. It was with this awareness that the Board of Education directed former Superintendent Nerad in Spring 2011 to form a Task Force charged with developing a set of recommendations for a comprehensive, integrated and culturally-informed school-linked system of mental health practices and supports for MMSD students. A group of 35-40 representatives from a wide variety of community stakeholders including MMSD, HMOs, non-profit mental health agencies, law enforcement, city and county government, advocacy agencies and parents was invited to engage in this important work. The work of the Task Force was initially facilitated by Superintendent Nerad and Scott Strong, Executive Director of Community Partnerships. Steve Hartley served in the co-facilitator role with Scott Strong upon Dr. Nerad's departure. Staff in the Department of Student Services served as 'staff' to the committee and provided the structures and processes to keep the group moving forward toward its goals. The Task Force met on a monthly basis from January 2012 through January 2013, working both in a large group as well as in subgroups in the focused areas of Organization and Policy, Education and Outreach, Direct Services and Access and Individualized Care. The preliminary recommendations and consensus regarding priorities were completed in January 2013 and are contained in the attached document entitled: "School Community Plan to Support Children's Mental Health".

Learn About the Educational Reform Plan the School Board Calls 'Bad for Birmingham'

Art Aisner and Laura Houser:

Parents and school officials concerned with potentially sweeping education reform currently making its way through the Michigan legislature are invited to sound off at a series of informational meetings starting Tuesday across Oakland County. Dave Randels, assistant director of the office of government relations and pupil services for Oakland Schools, will speak about Gov. Rick Snyder's education funding proposals from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Doyle Center in Bloomfield Hills. "Michigan is embarking on a very radical experiment with our children -- one that is untested and untried," an alert on the Bloomfield Hills Public Schools website read Monday. "We need to come together to learn about this movement and what we can do about it."
Former Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad is now leading the Birmingham School District.

Madison School Board & Employee Handbook

Madison Teachers', Inc. 46K PDF, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Not only did Governor Walker's Act 10 strip from the Madison Metropolitan School District the ability to engage in collective bargaining regarding wages, benefits and working conditions, but it gave full authority to the Board to unilaterally create a "replacement document", the Employee Handbook. At last week's Board of Education meeting, MTI Executive Director John Matthews delivered a letter to the Board in which, after acknowledging the negative impact of Act 10, he told the Board that Act 10 DID NOT take away the Board's ability to engage in conversation with representatives of MTI about the subjects to which the parties had previously agreed in bargaining, as well as any other topics. Board President James Howard called Matthews to tell him that the Board's process is still being developed and offered to meet with Matthews after the Board next meets about the Handbook. MTI has developed a process for Handbook development for which MTI has asked to present that to the Board of Education. MTI's proposed process includes a recommendation that those elected by the members of MTI's various bargaining units be appointed to the BOE's Handbook Committee. This will assure both elected representation and input from all employee groups. Matthews told Board of Education members about the discussions he and representatives of the AFSCME, Firefighters and Police Unions have been having with Mayor Soglin, County Executive Parisi and Supt. Nerad about the need to maintain positive employment relations, particularly relative to the development of the Handbook. Unfortunately, this effort at creating goodwill hit a bump in the road by former Supt. Nerad's failure to inform Interim Supt. Belmore. Working together to solve issues is the Madison way.

Outlook not set in stone for Wisconsin school of education enrollment

Arthur Thomas:

For all the changes implemented in 2011, one thing hurt enrollment at schools of education more than others, said John Gaffney, recruitment and retention coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point's School of Education. "The message of teachers being the problem hurt us the most," Gaffney said. The Act 10 legislation affected teachers' pocketbooks - with union bargaining largely eliminated, higher deductions for benefits were imposed - and the political firestorm that resulted put teachers at the center of attention. Maggie Beeber, undergraduate advising coordinator at the UW-Stevens Point education school, recounted a story where she was meeting with incoming freshmen. She asked the students if anyone had tried to discourage them from becoming teachers. Nearly every hand went up. Then she asked if more than five people had discouraged them. Most of the hands stayed up. "It's easy to follow the public discourse about teaching right now and conclude that everything is doomed," said Desiree Pointer Mace, associate dean for graduate education at Alverno College.
Related:

An Interview with UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood

Todd Finkelmeyer:

It's an unprecedented amount of change, honestly," says Julie Underwood, the dean of UW-Madison's highly ranked School of Education. Consider:
  • The state this year will start rating each school on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student test scores and other measurables. The idea, in part, is to give parents a way to evaluate how a school is performing while motivating those within it to improve.
  • Several schools across the state -- including Madison's Shorewood Elementary, Black Hawk Middle and Memorial High schools -- are part of Wisconsin's new teacher and principal evaluation system, which for the first time will grade a teacher's success, in part, on student test scores. This system is to be implemented across Wisconsin in 2014-15.li>And instead of Wisconsin setting its own student benchmarks, the state is moving toward using Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted in 45 other states. State schools are starting new curricula this year in language arts and math so students will be prepared by the 2014-15 school year to take a new state exam tied to this common core and replacing the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination.
Although Underwood says she generally backs most of these changes, she's no fan of the decision announced last month that makes it easier for a person to become a public school teacher -- even as those who are studying to become teachers must now meet stiffer credentialing requirements. Instead of having to complete education training at a place like UW-Madison en route to being licensed, those with experience in private schools or with other teaching backgrounds now can take steps to become eligible for a public teaching license. "I think that's really unfortunate," says Underwood, who first worked at UW-Madison from 1986-95 before coming back to town as education dean in 2005.
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