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K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin's Legacy for Unions

Steven Greenhouse:

All over the state, public executives are exercising new authority. Instead of raising teachers' salaries, the Mequon-Thiensville School District, near Milwaukee, froze them for two years, saving $560,000. It saved an additional $400,000 a year by increasing employee contributions for health care, said its superintendent, Demond Means. And it is starting a merit pay system for teachers, a move that has been opposed by some teachers and embraced by others. Ted Neitzke, school superintendent in West Bend, a city of 31,000 people north of Milwaukee, said that before Act 10 his budget-squeezed district had to cut course offerings and increase class sizes. Now, the district has raised the retirement age for teachers and revamped its health plan, saving $250,000 a year. "We couldn't negotiate or maneuver around that when there was bargaining," Mr. Neitzke said. "We've been able to shift money out of the health plan back into the classroom. We've increased programming." James R. Scott, a Walker appointee who is chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which administers the law regarding public-employee unions, said that "as a result of Act 10, the advantages that labor held have been diminished." He added: "It's fair to say that employers have the upper hand now." In Oshkosh, Mark Rohloff, the city manager, says the law has saved his city $1.2 million a year, largely because employees are now paying more of their pension and health contributions. But he said state aid cuts of $2 million a year left his city with an $800,000 shortfall. Among the city's 560 city workers, union membership has fallen to 225, down from 450. The police and the firefighters, who were exempted from Act 10's restrictions on collective bargaining, make up most of the remaining union members. Mr. Rohloff said his city's police and firefighters have averaged annual raises of 2.5 percent, while the other workers had no across-the-board raises from 2010 to 2012, and received a 1 percent increase in 2013. "Some of the employees who are not represented feel they're second-class citizens compared to other employees," Mr. Rohloff said. Demoralization is the flip side of Act 10. In Oneida County in northern Wisconsin, the county supervisors jettisoned language requiring "just cause" when firing employees. Now, said Julie Allen, a computer programmer and head of the main local for Oneida County's civil servants, morale is "pretty bad" and workers are afraid to speak out about anything, even safety issues or a revised pay scale. "We don't have just cause," she said. "We don't have seniority protections. So people are pretty scared."
Much more on Act 10, here.

The Wal-Mart-ization of higher education: How young professors are getting screwed

Keith Hoeller:

In 2009, Money Magazine published a survey titled "The 50 Best Jobs in America." Their reporters analyzed job data and conducted an online survey of thirty-five thousand people, taking into account such factors as salaries, flexibility, benefit to society, satisfaction, stress, job security, and growth prospects. The proverbial college professor sat high on the list at No. 3, with a median salary of $70,400 for nine months' work, top pay of $115,000, and a ten-year growth prospect of 23 percent. College teaching earned "A" grades for flexibility, benefit to society, and satisfaction, and a "B" for job stress, with 59 percent of surveyed professors reporting low stress. While acknowledging that "competition for tenure-track positions at four-year institutions is intense," Money claimed that graduate students with only a master's degree could find a part-time teaching job: "You'll find lots of available positions at community colleges and professional programs, where you can enter the professoriate as an adjunct faculty member or non-tenure-track instructor without a doctorate degree." Similarly, the 2000 "American Faculty Poll" conducted by the academic pension giant Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) seemed to corroborate the high job satisfaction rate for professors. "The poll found that 90 percent of the faculty members surveyed were satisfied with their career choices and would probably make the same decisions again," reported Courtney Leatherman, in her Chronicle of Higher Education story about the survey.

Quality surges in ranks of young teachers

Jay Matthews:

I hear from many experienced teachers who feel the emphasis on student test results has hurt their profession. But to young people coming into the profession, the situation does not look so dark. Education leaders influenced by European and Asian methods are raising standards for those who can enroll in teacher training, while making the training deeper, with more participation by skilled veterans. Many more teachers are required now to earn degrees in their subjects. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation has set new standards for teacher training programs in which entrants should have a collective college grade-point average of at least 3.0 and college admission test scores above the national average by 2017. The higher targets might already be having an effect. An article in the quarterly journal Education Next by Dan Goldhaber, a former Alexandria School Board member, and Joe Walch, both of the Center for Education Data & Research at the University of Washington, says new teachers have significantly higher SAT scores than in previous years. Average SAT performance of first-year teachers in 2008-2009 was at the 50th percentile, compared with the 45th percentile in 1993-1994 and 42nd percentile in 2000-2001. In the past, teacher candidates had lower SAT scores than college classmates choosing other jobs, but in 2008-2009, "graduates entering the teaching profession . . . had average SAT scores that slightly exceeded average scores of their peers entering other occupations," the researchers said.

Education programs take on Madison's achievement gap

Rachel Schulze:

Rose Yang, a senior at UW-Madison, is starting to consider plans for graduate school. After she earns her bachelor's in social welfare, she wants to complete a master's and become a social worker. "I want to help students very similar to myself, who didn't have opportunities--or didn't feel like they had the chance to go to college," Yang said, reflecting on her experience growing up in a low-income household in Madison. "I want to be that person who helps advocate for students like me at one point to get to college." While the Madison Metropolitan School District's 2011-12 graduation rate was 74.6 percent overall, the figure hides disparites. For white students the graduation rate was 86.7 percent, but it was lower for all other races: 80.8 percent among Asians, 63.2 among Hispanics, and 53.1 among blacks. The rate for economically disadvantaged students was 55.4 percent. Disparity in Madison received fresh attention in October when the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families released the "Race to Equity" report. The document outlined disparity between blacks and whites in Dane County, focusing on differing outcomes in education, employment and arrest rates as well as other areas. "I think that was a real litmus test that people in our communities were surprised by those numbers," said Madeline Hafner, executive of the Minority Student Achievement Network, a Madison-based national coalition of school districts aiming to reduce their levels educational disparity.

A somewhat connected (one end of the class spectrum) view of the State of Madison's $395M Public School District

Mary Erpenbach (and This story was made possible by supp​ort from Madison Gas & Electric, Summit Credit Union, CUNA Mutual Foundation and Aldo Leopold Nature Center.):

Today, Caire's tone has moderated. Somewhat. "Teachers are not to blame for the problems kids bring into the classroom," he says. "But teachers have to teach the kids in front of them. And Madison teachers are not prepared to do that. Now we have two choices: Make excuses why these kids can't make it and just know that they won't. Or move beyond and see a brighter future for kids." Many parents back him up. And many parents of students of color say that their experience with Madison's public schools--both as students here, themselves, and now as parents--is simply much different and much worse than what they see white students and parents experiencing. "I just always felt like I was on as a parent, like every time I walked through the door of that school I would have to go to bat for my son," says Sabrina Madison, mother of a West High graduate who is now a freshman at UW-Milwaukee. "Do you know how many times I was asked if I wanted to apply for this [assistance] program or that program? I would always say, 'No, we're good.' And at the same time, there is not the same ACT prep or things like that for my child. I was never asked 'Is your son prepared for college?' I never had that conversation with his guidance counselor." Hedi Rudd, whose two daughters graduated from East and son from West, says it has been her experience that the schools are informally segregated by assistance programs and that students of color are more likely to be treated with disrespect by school personnel. "Walk into the cafeteria and you'll see the kids [of color] getting free food and the white students eating in the hall. I walked into the school office one day," she recalls. "I look young and the secretary thought I was a student. She yelled, 'What are you doing here?' I just looked at her and said, 'Do you talk to your students like that?'" Dawn Crim, the mother of a daughter in elementary school and a son in middle school, says lowered expectations for students of color regardless of family income is an ongoing problem. "When we moved to Madison in 1996, we heard that MMSD was a great school district ... and for the most part it has been good for our kids and family: strong teachers, good administrators, a supportive learning environment, and we've been able to be very involved." But? "Regarding lower expectations for kids of color, not just disadvantaged kids, we, too, have experienced the lower expectations for our kids; overall there is a feeling and a sense of lower expectations," Crim says. "And that should not come into play. All of our kids should be respected, pushed, have high expectations and should get the best education this district says it gives." In the meantime, the school district has been running programs in partnership with the Urban League of Greater Madison, UW-Madison, United Way of Dane County, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and other organizations--all designed to lift scholastic achievement, close the gap, and get more kids graduated and on to college. The Advancement Via Individual Determination program known as AVID (or AVID/TOPS, when coordinated with the Teens Of Promise program) is run by the district and the Boys and Girls Club here, and is a standout in a slew of public/private efforts to change the fate of students of color in Madison. ..... At the end of the last school year, a total of four hundred forty-two students did not graduate on time from high school in Madison. One hundred nine were white, eighty-six were Hispanic, thirty-three were Asian and one hundred ninety-one were African American. If the graduation rate for African American students had been comparable to the eighty-eight percent graduation rate of white students, one hundred forty more African American students would have graduated from Madison high schools. But they did not. While it's true that the district actively searches out students who did not graduate on time, and works with them so that as many as possible do ultimately graduate, the black-and-white dividing line of fifty-five/eighty-eight remains for now the achievement gap's stark, frightening, final face. What can be said is that many more Madisonians are paying attention to it, and many people in a position to make a difference are doing their level best to do something about it. ...... "One of the reasons we haven't been as successful as we could be is because we've lacked focus and jumped from initiative to initiative," she (Cheatham) says of the Madison schools.
Related: notes and links on Mary Erpanbach, Jennifer Cheatham and Madison's long term disastrous reading scores. Background articles: Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School. 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 (2005). Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992. My Life and Times With the Madison Public Schools Latest Madison Schools' 2013-2014 $391,834,829 Budget.

'Lefty hypocrisy' in the Madison School District

Chris Rickert:

But the writer's view of Madisonians as a bunch of liberals whose actions belie their highfalutin ideals rings true when it comes to at least one Madison institution: the schools. Despite decades of embarrassing gaps in achievement between white and minority and poor and rich students, the Madison School District has: Moved slowly to ramp up the AVID/TOPS (Advancement Via Individual Determination/Teens of Promise) program, which has been shown to boost academic achievement among the district's students of color, who make up more than half the student body. It served 7 percent of middle and high school students in 2012-13, up from 0.2 percent when AVID was introduced in 2007-08 (TOPS was added a year later). Done nothing to change regressive union rules that make teachers' career advancement and promotion almost entirely a matter of their seniority and degree attainment -- as opposed to, say, their ability to engage and educate students of color and poor students. Turned down a bid by the Urban League of Greater Madison to create a charter school that would have focused on serving poor and minority students. Declined to broach the idea of year-round school despite research showing that students from poor families suffer most from the "summer slide." Declined to seek changes to a school board elections system that has already basically ensured a win for the one white candidate on the ballot this April. The black candidate and the Latino candidate will have to fight it out for the other districtwide seat. None of this is news. What is new, however, is the attention Madison's long-standing race-based disparities in the schools and other areas are getting from the politically liberal people who run this town.

Technology & Jobs: The effect of today's technology on tomorrow's jobs will be immense--and no country is ready for it

The Economist:

INNOVATION, the elixir of progress, has always cost people their jobs. In the Industrial Revolution artisan weavers were swept aside by the mechanical loom. Over the past 30 years the digital revolution has displaced many of the mid-skill jobs that underpinned 20th-century middle-class life. Typists, ticket agents, bank tellers and many production-line jobs have been dispensed with, just as the weavers were. For those, including this newspaper, who believe that technological progress has made the world a better place, such churn is a natural part of rising prosperity. Although innovation kills some jobs, it creates new and better ones, as a more productive society becomes richer and its wealthier inhabitants demand more goods and services. A hundred years ago one in three American workers was employed on a farm. Today less than 2% of them produce far more food. The millions freed from the land were not consigned to joblessness, but found better-paid work as the economy grew more sophisticated. Today the pool of secretaries has shrunk, but there are ever more computer programmers and web designers. Remember Ironbridge Optimism remains the right starting-point, but for workers the dislocating effects of technology may make themselves evident faster than its benefits (see article). Even if new jobs and wonderful products emerge, in the short term income gaps will widen, causing huge social dislocation and perhaps even changing politics. Technology's impact will feel like a tornado, hitting the rich world first, but eventually sweeping through poorer countries too. No government is prepared for it.

ACEing Autism teaches kids the joy of tennis at FDR High

Bob Kampf:

Every tennis game starts with love. Nowhere is that more evident than at FDR High School when tennis coach Bob Mayerhofer gathers his varsity players together to teach some of Hyde Park's autistic children about their favorite sport. "Before I retired from teaching," said Mayerhofer, "I had been involved with Special Olympics and I wanted to find some way to keep helping young people with special needs." His wishes were granted when he learned about a program known as ACEing Autism, which was started in Boston in 2008 by tennis professional Richard Spurling and his wife, Shafali Spurling Jeste, a child neurologist. The program, which is offered free to children with autism spectrum disorders, currently spans six states, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, California and New York. Hyde Park's program was brought to fruition by Mayerhofer along with Lynn Forcella, the mother of an autistic child and other parents of autistic children, with support from Aviva Kafka, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education in Hyde Park. The program is one of only four active in the state. The others are located in Dobbs Ferry and Ithaca, and at Riverside Park in New York City.

Give competency-based college programs a chance: Column

James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley:

As students spend the next few weeks completing their college applications, a question is hanging in the air: Is college worth it? It's not only students who are wondering. It's also employers who are starting to question what a college degree tells them about potential hires. Maybe a top name will suggest a student who performed well on the SATs, but the truth is that employers often have no idea what they're getting. As Carol Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, recently toldInsideHigherEd, "Our employer studies show that employers basically find the transcript useless in evaluating job candidates." The people doing the hiring these days have no idea if students can write a coherent paragraph. And the courses listed on their transcripts do not really tell employers what skills they have actually mastered. According to the Department of Education, in 2012 there were more than 1,500 academic programs students could choose for a major. That number increased by more than 350in the decade before. What employer keeps track of what those programs entail? This problem is not exactly new and the solution has been clear to many for years. As Charles Murray wrote in his 2008 book, Real Education, "The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know and are able to do, not where they learned it or how long it took them to learn it."

Read This Before You Apply to Grad School

Megan McArdle:

If you're thinking about going to graduate school, read this (Google docs non open version or .xlsx version) before you apply. It's an open spreadsheet where graduates have posted about their debt levels, why they acquired so much debt, and how they're planning to pay it off. Note that a lot of these people had funding. Before they go to grad school, people are warned that you shouldn't go unless you're fully funded (tuition paid, some sort of research or teaching stipend). And that's absolutely correct. If a Ph.D. program admits you without funding, it's telling you that it doesn't care whether you come; the program is willing to take your money, but not willing to invest in you. That means you won't have access to the opportunities and support required to have a viable career in academia.
via Karen Kelsky

For better or worse, Walton Family Foundation plays role in Milwaukee

Alan Borsuk:

What do you say to someone who has given more than $30 million to helps schools and educators in Milwaukee? My parents taught me to say thank you. Seems like a good practice. But it's not that simple when that someone is the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the mega-billions heirs of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Their generous, but ideological-oriented support leaves many people saying thank you and many others wishing the Waltons would go away. The role of a dozen or so foundations with the assets to have nationwide impact in promoting change in education frequently brings out strong opinions. The dividing line, not surprisingly, is often over ideas such as school choice, private school vouchers, independent charter schools, and the roles of entrepreneurs and teachers unions. Several of the big foundations, including Walton, strongly support what many call "reform" ideas. You would think Milwaukee would be a primary venue for the philanthropic titans. We have the oldest and one of the largest urban voucher programs and an energetic charter school sector. But for whatever reasons, we haven't seen that much of the "billionaire boys club," as Diane Ravitch, an adamant and leading critic, has called it. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the giant among giants, put quite a bit of money into launching small high schools in Milwaukee a dozen years ago or so, leaving behind a few good schools but not too much overall. Otherwise, we've been kind of low on the Gates priority list, at least compared to some other places.

Can Unions Save Adjuncts?

Megan McArdle:

Last week, I wrote that collectively, faculty need to deal with the terrible market for professorships by producing fewer potential professors: admitting a lot fewer students to graduate school. Graduate school doesn't exploit students the way that, say, a third-tier law school program does -- the students are paid, not paying vast sums for degrees they can't use. But by wildly overproducing graduate students, academia is doing something just as bad, in a different way: encouraging overoptimistic (OK, maybe arrogant) kids to spend their formative years in the labor market pursuing jobs they aren't so likely to get, then hiring the excess students as essentially casual labor at low wages. There are two criticisms I've received that seem worth responding to. The first is that I myself work in a profession that looks a lot like a tournament: a lucky few at the top, and a lot of hopefuls who don't make it. That's absolutely true. But I don't encourage young people to seek jobs in the profession; I tell them the math is terrible and getting worse, and they should do something else. The economics of the industry are very bad, unless you are lucky enough to work for a place like Bloomberg News, which doesn't depend on advertising. I certainly don't get paid to train them for journalism jobs that they probably won't get. That said, most people don't spend five or six or eight years just preparing to be eligible to get a job in journalism, and an additional four years or so cycling through post-docs before it becomes clear that that journalism job isn't going to happen. Nor, when they are six years into their first permanent job, do they have a committee that meets to decide whether to fire them and put them back on the job market, quite possibly with very poor prospects. They don't have to move to towns in the middle of nowhere or give up relationships because their partners will never be able to find work in the Ozarks. Female journalists do not have to put off starting a family until they're pushing 40 because it would be insane to reproduce before the tenure committee approves them. The opportunity costs of trying to become a journalist are quite a bit lower than the opportunity costs of trying to become an academic.

Youth Misery Index Hits all time High

Jennifer Kabbany:A Youth Misery Index that measures young Americans' woes has skyrocketed under President Barack Obama and hit an all-time high. The index, released Wednesday, was calculated by adding youth unemployment and average college loan debt figures with each person's share of the national debt. While it has steadily grown over the decades, under Obama the figure has shot up dramatically, from 83.5 in 2009 to 98.6 in 2013. The index has increased by 18.1 percent since Obama took office, the highest increase under any president, making Obama the worst president for youth economic opportunity, according to the nonprofit that released the figure. "Young people are suffering under this economy," said Ashley Pratte, program officer for Young America's Foundation, which...

Darien Top 10 of 2013: No. 1 -- Special education

David DesRoches, via a kind reader:

Darien's issues have highlighted a special education flaw that exists across the state and nation. The question over what is appropriate has drawn a deep divide among residents. Parents from several states and Connecticut towns have contacted The Times, saying that Darien's problems happen everywhere, and in most cases, the problems are worse. Sue Gamm, the Chicago attorney hired by the Board of Education to investigate how deep the special education problems went, told The Darien Times that her work in town was the most difficult job in her 40-plus year career. Gamm formerly was a top administrator for Chicago Public Schools and a division director for the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. She has performed similar duties in more than 50 school districts across the United States. John Verre, the man charged with overhauling Darien's special education program, has also noted the difficult challenge Darien presents. "Darien is a particularly challenging combination of problems," Verre told The Times shortly after he was hired in October. "It compares to the most challenging situation I've ever found." A number of people have resigned from their top-earning positions, including the schools' superintendent, Steve Falcone, along with Matt Byrnes, a former assistant superintendent, Dick Huot, the finance director, and Antoinette Fornshell, the literacy coordinator. Most recently, one of the people who has been consistently named as having contributed to the illegal special education program, Liz Wesolowski, announced to fellow staff members she was leaving Darien for a position with Shelton Public Schools. Fornshell and Wesolowski played key roles in the implementation of the district's SRBI program, which Gamm criticized for its lack of data and poor implementation due to staff being poorly trained. There was also no manual for SRBI, which is an intervention program designed to give children extra help if they fall behind in their class work. It's intended to prevent children from needing more expensive special education services, but critics say it is more often used to delay providing special ed to children with legally-defined disabilities.

Online Teaching, Testing Spurs Calls for Faster School Connections, Revamp of Program

Stephanie Banchero:

As public schools nationwide embrace instruction via iPads, laptops and other technologies, many are realizing they lack the necessary broadband speed to perform even simple functions. This is crimping classroom instruction as more teachers pull lesson plans off the Internet and use bandwidth-hungry programming such as video streaming and Skype. An estimated 72% of public schools have connections that are too slow to take full advantage of digital learning, according to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that tests school broadband speeds and works to upgrade Internet access. The average school has about the same speed as the average American home, while serving 200 times as many users, according to the Obama administration. Expanding high-speed Internet in schools involves upgrading wiring, expanding Wi-Fi capabilities or simply spending more money to purchase faster service. Adding to the worries: 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the new Common Core math and reading standards and most will take the new online assessments in the 2014-15 school year. The test results will be used to evaluate teachers, make student promotion and graduation decisions and rate schools. "Just as people are getting excited about the power of what the Internet offers to students and teachers, they are running into the buzz saw of infrastructure," said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway.

2013 Madison Summer School Report

Scott Zimmerman:

The district provided a comprehensive extended learning summer school program, K-Ready through 12th grade, at ten sites and served 5,097 students. At each of the K-8 sites, there was direction by a principal, professional Leopold, Chavez, Black Hawk and Toki, and oral language development was offered at Blackhawk and Toki. The 4th grade promotion classes were held at each elementary school, and 8th grade promotion classes were held at the two middle school sites. Students in grades K-2 who received a 1 or 2 on their report card in literacy, and students in grades 3-5 who received a 1 or 2 in math or literacy, were invited to attend SLA. The 6-7 grade students who received a GPA of 2.0 or lower, or a 1 or 2 on WKCE, were invited to attend SLA. As in 2012, students with report cards indicating behavioral concerns were invited to attend summer school. Additionally, the summer school criterion for grades 5K-7th included consideration for students receiving a 3 or 4 asterisk grade on their report card (an asterisk grade indicates the student receives modified curriculum). In total, the academic program served 2,910 students, ranging from those entering five-year-old kindergarten through 8th grade. High school courses were offered for credit recovery, first-time credit, and electives including English/language arts, math, science, social studies, health, physical education, keyboarding, computer literacy, art, study skills, algebra prep, ACT/SAT prep, and work experience. The high school program served a total of 1,536 students, with 74 students having completed their graduation requirements at the end of the summer. All academic summer school teachers received approximately 20 hours of professional development prior to the start of the six-week program. Kindergarten-Ready teachers as well as primary literacy and math teachers also had access to job embedded professional development. In 2013, there were 476 certified staff employed in SLA.
Jennifer Cheatham:
Key Enhancements for Summer School 2014 A) Provide teachers with a pay increase without increasing overall cost of summer school. Teacher salary increase of 3% ($53,887). B) Smaller Learning Environments: Create smaller learning environments, with fewer students per summer school site compared to previous years, to achieve the following: increase student access to high quality learning, increase the number of students who can walk to school, and reduce number of people in the building when temperatures are high. ($50,482) C) Innovations: Pilot at Wright Middle School and Lindbergh Elementary School where students receive instruction in a familiar environment, from a familiar teacher. These school sites were selected based on identification as intense focus schools along with having high poverty rates when compared to the rest of the district. Pilot character building curriculum at Sandburg Elementary School. ($37,529) D) Student Engagement: Increase student engagement with high quality curriculum and instruction along with incentives such as Friday pep rallies and afternoon MSCR fieldtrips. ($25,000) E) High School Professional Development: First-time-offered, to increase quality of instruction and student engagement in learning. ($12,083) F) Student Selection: Utilize an enhanced student selection process that better aligns with school's multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) so that student services intervention teams (SSIT) have time to problem solve, and recommend students for SLA. Recommendations are based on student grades and standardized assessment scores, such as a MAP score below the 25th percentile at grades 3-5, or a score of minimal on the WKCE in language arts, math, science, and social studies at grades 3-5. (no cost) Estimated total cost: $185,709.00 Summer School Program Reductions The following changes would allow enhancements to summer school and implementation of innovative pilots: A) Professional development (PD): reduce PD days for teachers grades K-8 by one day. This change will save money and provide teachers with an extra day off of work before the start of summer school (save $49,344.60). B) Materials reduction: the purchase of Mondo materials in 2013 allows for the reduction of general literacy curricular materials in 2014 (save $5,000). C) Madison Virtual Campus (MVC): MVC is not a reimbursable summer school program as students are not in classroom seats. This program could be offered separate from summer school in the future (save $18,000). D) Librarians: reduce 3 positions, assigning librarians to support two sites. Students will continue to have access to the expertise of the librarian and can utilize library resources including electronic equipment (save $12,903.84). E) Reading Interventionists: reduce 8 positions, as summer school is a student intervention, it allows students additional learning time in literacy and math. With new Mondo materials and student data profiles, students can be grouped for the most effective instruction when appropriate (save $48,492). F) PBS Coach: reduce 8 positions, combining the coach and interventionist positions to create one position (coach/interventionist) that supports teachers in setting up classes and school wide systems, along with providing individual student interventions. With smaller learning sites, there would be less need for two separate positions (save $24,408). G) Literacy and Math Coach Positions: reduce from 16 to 5 positions, combining the role and purpose of the literacy and math coach. Each position supports two schools for both math and literacy. Teachers can meet weekly with literacy/math coach to plan and collaborate around curriculum and student needs (save $27,601.60). Estimated Total Savings: $185,750.04 Strategic Framework: The role of the Summer Learning Academy (SLA) is critical to preparing students for college career and community readiness. Research tells us that over 50% of the achievement gap between lower and higher income students is directly related to unequal learning opportunities over the summer (Alexander et al., 2007). Research based practices and interventions are utilized in SLA to increase opportunities for learning and to raise student achievement across the District (Odden & Archibald, 2008). The SLA is a valuable time for students to receive additional support in learning core concepts in literacy and math to move them toward MMSD benchmarks (Augustine et.al., 2013). SLA aligns with the following Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Strategic Framework goals: A) Every student is on-track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. Milestones of reading by grade 3, proficiency in reading and math in grade 5, high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 11, and high school graduation and completion rate. B) Every student has access to challenging and well-rounded education as measured by programmatic access and participation data. Access to fine arts and world languages, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and advanced coursework.

Of (Former Teacher) Ronn Johnson, shattered trust and lessons learned

Alan Borsuk:

What really matters when it comes to the quality of education? It's not whether a school is public, private or charter, said a speaker at a panel discussion I moderated. "It's about what happens with that personal relationship between that young person and that teacher when the door closes." The speaker said he had seen success at schools where he taught early in his career because of great leadership, and he aimed to be that kind of leader when he became a principal. The best part of his job, he said, "was introducing myself and saying I was the proudest principal in America." His school didn't have as much money as some schools, and it served students with a lot of needs. But, he said, "we did more with less because you had people who cared, and we were going to make it happen one way or the other." Oh, Ronn Johnson. What you said at that session 10 months ago was all true. As principal of Young Leaders Academy, an independent charter school in the YMCA branch at W. North and N. Teutonia avenues, you had accomplishments that deserved praise. The school had a distinctive program, a lot of energy, solid structure and a record of decent, although not great, student achievement since it opened in 2002.

The year in education: Wins, losses and unsung heroes

Alan Borsuk:

Did not much happen? Consider the waves of flat data on how kids are doing. It may take a while to sort out this year. But that won't stop me from offering a few awards for, um, distinguished something or other. Most jaw-dropping moment of the year: Adding into the state budget a statewide private school voucher program. Literally in the middle of the night, with no public hearings or advance word, this emerged from a backroom deal by key Republicans and voucher lobbyists. It is limited to a small number of students now. But if Gov. Scott Walker wins re-election in November and Republicans keep control of the Assembly and Senate, there is a strong possibility vouchers will become available widely in Wisconsin. Education person of the year: Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton. In his fourth year, Thornton and his powerful behind-the-scenes chief of staff, Naomi Gubernick, are at the center of so much. Thornton is both tough and a nice guy, each an asset in his work. He is good at spreading optimism. He's got plans and goals that sound good and, in many ways, are. And he's politically adept. But he is a perplexing figure who seems eager not to be challenged by subordinates or pesky people like reporters. A "gotcha" style of management by bosses seems to be pretty common in MPS, undermining morale. The Same Old Same Old Award: Waves of test data and a second round of the new statewide school report cards told us that the Have kids are doing OK in Wisconsin and the Have Not kids are not. As for the Haves, they're not doing so well that we shouldn't be talking about how to give their schools a fresh burst of energy, and that seems to be happening in some places. As for the Have Nots, so little has changed, despite so much effort. There are a few bright spots on the scene, and we need to do more to grow them. Overall, we've got to find paths that are better than the ones we've been on. The Gone-At-Last Award (Hopefully To Stay): Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School. This was one of a handful of voucher schools that was a model of what's wrong with oversight of Milwaukee's nationally important program to pay for children in private schools. The school was "an abomination," as one strongly pro-voucher leader told me recently. But for years, it fended off attempts to cut off its funding. Finally, this year, after receiving $7,299,749 in public money over a dozen years, the Brenda Noach school ran out of options -- it couldn't find anyone to accredit it. But that doesn't mean the school leaders aren't shopping for accreditation to re-open for next year.

Closing the "Word Gap" Between Rich and Poor

NPR staff In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families -- some poor, some middle class, some rich -- during the first three years of their new children's lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families' homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household. What they found came to be known as the "word gap." It turned out, by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. Research since then has revealed that the "word gap" factors into a compounding achievement gap...

How U.S. schools misteach history of racial segregation

CRichard Rothstein:

In the last week, we've paid great attention to Nelson Mandela's call for forgiveness and reconciliation between South Africa's former white rulers and its exploited black majority. But we've paid less attention to the condition that Mandela insisted must underlie reconciliation--truth. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Mandela established, and that Bishop Desmond Tutu chaired, was designed to contribute to cleansing wounds of the country's racist history by exposing it to a disinfecting bright light. As for those Afrikaners who committed even the worst acts of violence against blacks, they could be forgiven and move on only if they acknowledged the full details of their crimes. In the current issue of the School Administrator, I write that we do a much worse job of facing up to our racial history in the United States, leading us to make less progress than necessary in remedying racial inequality. We have many celebrations of the civil rights movement and its heroes, but we do very little to explain to young people why that movement was so necessary. Earlier this week, the New York Times described how the Alabama Historical Association has placed many commemorative markers around Montgomery to commemorate civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, but declined--because of "the potential for controversy"--to call attention to the city's slave markets and their role in the spread of slavery before the Civil War. Throughout our nation, this fear of confronting the past makes it more difficult to address and remedy the ongoing existence of urban ghettos, the persistence of the black-white achievement gap, and the continued under-representation of African Americans in higher education and better-paying jobs. One of the worst examples of our historical blindness is the widespread belief that our continued residential racial segregation, North and South, is "de facto," not the result of explicit government policy but instead the consequence of private prejudice, economic inequality, and personal choice to self-segregate. But in truth, our major metropolitan areas were segregated by government action. The federal government purposefully placed public housing in high-poverty, racially isolated neighborhoods (pdf) to concentrate the black population, and with explicit racial intent, created a whites-only mortgage guarantee program to shift the white population from urban neighborhoods to exclusively white suburbs (pdf). The Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exemptions for charitable activity to organizations established for the purpose of enforcing neighborhood racial homogeneity. State-licensed realtors in virtually every state, and with the open support of state regulators, supported this federal policy by refusing to permit African Americans to buy or rent homes in predominantly white neighborhoods. Federal and state regulators sanctioned the refusal of the banking, thrift, and insurance industries to make loans to homeowners in other-race communities. Prosecutors and police sanctioned, often encouraged, thousands of acts of violence against African Americans who attempted to move to neighborhoods that had not been designated for their race.

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