Madison Prep Closing Argument, Part II: Yes, but with a Delay

I want to support the Urban League’s Madison Prep charter school proposal.  It is undeniable that the Madison School District has not done well by its African-American students.  We need to accept that fact and be willing to step back and give our friends at the Urban League an opportunity to show us a better way.

The issue is far more complicated than this, however.  There are a number of roadblocks on the path to saying yes.  I discuss these issues below.  Some are more of an obstacle than others.

The biggest challenge is that a vote in favor of Madison Prep as it is currently proposed amounts to a vote to violate our collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.  I see no way around this.  I believe in honoring the terms of our contracts with our employees.  For me, this means that I have to condition my support for Madison Prep on a one-year delay in its opening.

Most other obstacles and risks can be addressed by including reasonable provisions in the charter school contract between the school district and Urban League.

There are some risks that cannot be addressed through contract.  For these, we’ll just have to take a chance.  There’s no getting around the fact that approval of Madison Prep entails a leap of faith.

I’m okay with this uncertainty, and even with the understanding that the Madison Prep experiment may not succeed.  Sometimes the outcome of an endeavor can be less important that the fact that was it was undertaken in the first place.  In this case, I think the School Board should be willing to commit to the plan of action the Urban League has presented, even while acknowledging that it carries a significant risk of failure.

Here is how the rest of this very long post is organized.  The next section provides some background about the Madison Prep proposal and the academic performance of our African-American students that has called it forth.  Next, I list eight issues that the proposal raises and offer my responses.  I finish up with a description of the reasoning process that gets me to as close to yes as possible.


A little over two years ago, President Obama visited Wright Middle School.  The State Journal ran an editorial pegged to the President’s visit that lauded charter schools.

I wrote a letter to the editor in response that was printed on November 5, 2009.

It said in part:

The State Journal’s call for more charter schools in the editorial welcoming the president to Madison was a bit off the mark.

A charter school is not an end in itself – it’s a means to achieve an end. If there are impediments to learning that we’re unable to address, or opportunities for improvement that we’re unable to provide through our neighborhood schools, then a charter could be an effective way to address the issue

For example, I’d be interested in a charter proposal designed to attack our achievement gap by providing a more intense academic focus in a longer school day and longer school year for students who are behind. But if a charter idea lacks that sort of vital justification, then for me there’s insufficient reason to deviate from our traditional neighborhood school approach.

Be careful what you wish for.  Four months later, in March, 2010, Kaleem Caire became Executive Director of the Urban League.  In December, 2010, the Urban League formally submitted to the school district its plan for Madison Prep, which can fairly be described as “a charter proposal designed to attack our achievement gap by providing a more intense academic focus in a longer school day and longer school year for students who are behind.”  On Monday, December 19, after a number of twists and turns, I and my fellow School Board members will decide the fate of Madison Prep.

Madison Prep is designed primarily to address the problem of the underperformance of our African-American students.

As a member of the School Board, I feel it’s my obligation to promote the district’s schools and cast the performance of our students in the best possible light.  I can’t bring myself to do so in this case.

If the question is why the school district should be willing to subcontract out part of its responsibility for educating the district’s students to a group that has never before run a school, part of the answer may be found in the following two tables.

They list on a grade-by-grade basis the percentage of African-American students in the Madison School District whose WKCE reading and math scores fall below the level of proficiency, and also include the comparable figures for all African-American students in the State of Wisconsin.  In these tables, the higher the percentage, the worse the performance.

Percentage of African-American Students Non-Proficient on WKCE

Madison Versus State


State – Reading

































State – Math































These sobering percentages paint a grim picture.  There is a sliver of light in the 10th grade percentages, where the Madison results are better than the statewide figures, although when the difference is between 58% and 66% you’re just talking about gradations of bad.

Otherwise, it looks like African-American students in Madison do poorly in both absolute and relative terms.  Or, depending on how you look at it, the district is doing an ineffective job of educating its African-American students, both in terms of absolute numbers and relative to the performance of comparable students elsewhere in the state.

We can’t be very encouraged even by our tenth grade results when we turn to look at graduation rates.  According to DPI figures, the percentage of our African-American students who graduate from high school in four years with a regular diploma (not a high school equivalency diploma) is a dismal 48.3%.  The comparable state-wide percentage is 60.5%.

We tend to live our lives inured to the inequities and inequalities that we confront on a daily basis.  But these figures compel a response.  It seems to me that those of us on the School Board, who are ultimately responsible for the operations of the district, must be willing to concede that, for whatever reasons, the school district is failing most of our African-American students.  And we’re failing them even if we lower our expectations to take into account the performance of African-American students elsewhere in Wisconsin.

If we are able to acknowledge this point, then we should be open to serious proposals designed to ameliorate the situation.  There’s no silver bullet that will single-handedly blaze a path to success for our African-American students.  But there are proposals and approaches that might well induce our struggling students to undertake the hard work of improvement.

That brings us to Madison Prep.  The Urban League has proposed a charter middle and high school premised on a culture of high expectations and hard work.  The school would offer an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum separately to boys and girls.

The proposal has garnered lots of community support, and plenty of opposition as well.  It has also raised a host of issues.  I discuss eight of them in the following sections of this post.

1.   The collective bargaining agreement. 

As I have written before, if the school district authorizes a non-instrumentality charter school to start classes in September 2012, it will thereby countenance an almost certain violation of the terms of the district’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI).

The CBA provides that any teaching duties within the district are only to be performed by members of the MTI bargaining unit.  The employees of a non-instrumentality charter school cannot be employees of the school district and so cannot be members of the MTI bargaining unit.

There’s no real dispute that the School Board cannot approve the Madison Prep proposal without thereby endorsing a violation of the terms of its CBA with MTI.  The Urban League argues that this needn’t be a showstopper, however, for two reasons.

First, the work preservation clause in the CBA that prohibits subcontracting teacher work to nonunion members is said to be preempted by the state statute that authorizes school districts to authorize non-instrumentality charter schools.  Second, Act 65, recently enacted state legislation that empowers a school district and its teacher union to amend their CBA to reduce compensation and fringe benefits without triggering the draconian provisions of Act 10, demonstrates that the school district and MTI could enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) waiving the application to Madison Prep of the work preservation clause in the CBA.

Rather than extending this post even more, I’ll just say that I remain unconvinced by the Urban League’s legal analysis.  Approval of Madison Prep’s proposal is quite likely to violate the CBA.  Under these circumstances, MTI will have virtually no choice but to file a grievance against the school district.  If it declines to do so, it opens itself up to the claim of MTI opponents that it and the district have tacitly entered into an MOU waiving the applicability of the work preservation clause of the CBA to Madison Prep, and that this effectively amends the CBA and so triggers the applicability of Act 10.

If MTI does file a grievance, the arbitrator is likely to find a violation.  This would lead to an order designed to bring the school district into compliance with the work preservation clause.  I can’t predict what the precise contours of such an order would be, but it’s bound to interfere substantially with the Urban League’s plan for the school and frustrate the decision to select non-instrumentality status.

Under the circumstances, the better course is to postpone the opening of Madison Prep for a year, until September 2013.  The school district’s current CBA with MTI expires on June 30, 2013.  If the provisions of Act 10 are not amended or repealed by that time, then the work preservation clause of the CBA will cease to be in effect and a non-instrumentality charter school will not be prohibited at the time Madison Prep opens its doors.  If Act 10 is repealed, then the school district can attempt to negotiate a new CBA with MTI that accommodates the operation of a non-instrumentality Madison Prep.

For these reasons, I am not able to support the current Madison Prep proposal.  However, if the School Board rejects that proposal, I intend to offer a motion that the Board approve Madison Prep as a non-instrumentality charter school, but conditioned upon a one-year delay in the opening of the school.

2.   The cost of the school.

My initial reservations about Madison Prep centered around its projected cost to the school district.  Back in September, I wrote that it looked as if approval of the school would require slashing millions of dollars from other district schools and programs.  This was a higher price tag than I was willing to pay.

Since then the school has received pledges for private donations – most prominently from Mary Burke.  It has also agreed to focus its recruiting on students from a handful of middle schools, which has the effect of increasing the savings the school district would realize at other middle schools as a result of the enrollment of some of their students at Madison Prep.

Consequently, the school district’s recent administrative analysis of the proposal concludes that Madison Prep would impose the following incremental costs on the school district over the five years of its proposed contract:











I think these costs are manageable.  In fact, as far as the school district’s incremental costs are concerned, Mary Burke is pretty much matching us dollar for dollar.

We can and should increase our tax levy sufficiently to cover these additional costs.  This would ensure that the approval of Madison Prep would not compel us to reduce our expenditures on programs and initiatives at our existing schools.

Roughly speaking, a million dollar increase in school district spending translates to about an $11 increase in the property taxes on a $250,000 home.  So the approval of Madison Prep would cause the annual property taxes on that home to increase by less than $10.  I think the investment is worth it.

3.   The non-instrumentality structure of the school.

After some back and forth, Madison Prep is now proposed to be a non-instrumentality charter school.  This means that, unlike the schools district’s existing charter schools at James C. Wright, Nuestro Mundo and Badger Rock,  the teachers and other staff at Madison Prep would be employees of the Urban League rather than the school district, the district would have less day-to-day oversight over the school’s operations, and the school’s teachers would not be members of MTI.  This is similar to the structure of most charter schools in the country, though not in Wisconsin.

Two principal objections have been raised to Madison Prep’s non-instrumentality status.  In the words of MTI head John Matthews, “it would effectively eliminate supervision and accountability of the school to the Madison School Board regarding the expenditure of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and . . . it would also violate long-standing terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement between the Madison School District and MTI.”

Charter schools are premised upon a trade-off by which the schools are promised autonomy in their day-to-day operations in return for accountability for their results.  The school district would be able to determine what standards of performance students at the school would be required to achieve in order for the school to continue beyond its initial five-year term.

It is hard for the school district and school board to let go and surrender day-to-day control over the education of some of our students.  But we can’t expect improvement if we are unwilling to submit to change, and some change entails giving others a chance.

If we believe in Madison Prep enough to give it a chance, I am all right with giving up the operational control that a non-instrumentality school implies.  But I am concerned about a five-year term for the initial contract for the school.  It is okay to judge Madison Prep on its results, but we don’t need to wait five years to make a judgment as to how it is doing.

The proposal is for the school to offer sixth grade in its first year and to add an additional class each year until a high school senior class is enrolled in the seventh year of operation.  Since it comes first, our focus has been more on the middle school component of the school than the high school component.

As an additional accountability measure, I think we should require a mid-course review in the third year of Madison Prep’s operation, when it will have sixth through eighth grades.  We should identify in advance specific benchmarks the school would be required to meet in order to qualify to expand to ninth grade in its fourth year.

If the school falls short, it could continue as a middle school for its five-year term.  But it would be prohibited from expanding to high school until it had proved that its approach was working.

I think this would be a reasonable way to increase the degree to which the school would be accountable to the school district while respecting the focus on results that is intended to distinguish charter schools from their traditional counterparts.

The second concern raised about Madison Prep’s non-instrumentality status is that its teachers and staff would not be members of the MTI bargaining unit and would not be paid at the levels set out in the CBA.

Madison Prep’s budget calls for paying its teachers about $50,000 in salary and bonuses.  I tried to determine from the CBA how much experience an MMSD teacher would need to qualify for this salary, but I couldn’t figure it out.  Salary levels for MMSD teachers range from $33,575 to $90,579.  MMSD teachers also qualify for more generous benefits than Madison Prep teachers would receive and are not required to work as many hours.

I am not interested in reducing the salaries we pay our teachers.  In fact, I think they are probably underpaid.  But I do not feel compelled to object to any and every proposal for a non-instrumentality charter school on this basis

Here’s how I see it.  Madison Prep will be looking for skilled and inspiring teachers to fill out a staff whose make-up should reflect the diversity of the school.  The school district would also welcome with open arms the kinds of teachers that Madison Prep will want to hire.

So, these teachers will very likely have their pick of going to work for Madison Prep or for the school district.  (A few might already be MMSD teachers.)  They are certainly capable of choosing whether they want to go to work for MMSD, become a member of MTI, and work under the terms of the CBA, or else go to work for Madison Prep, likely be non-unionized (at least at the start), and work longer hours for lower pay.

Why shouldn’t these teachers have the right to that choice?  How paternalistic would it be for us to vote down a non-instrumentality Madison Prep because we’re unwilling to allow a teacher to choose to work for less in what the teacher may view as a more rewarding work environment?  Whose interests are we serving?

4.  The proposed curriculum.

Madison Prep proposes to use an International Baccalaureate curriculum.  I am no expert, but I have reservations about this choice.  TJ Mertz has pointed out a number of reasons to be skeptical about the match between the curriculum and the mission of the school.  Others have noted that throughout the Madison Prep review process there has been relatively little attention devoted to the suitability of its proposed curriculum.

I am not convinced that IB is the best choice for Madison Prep.  This prompts me to consider what would happen if the school opens and in fact IB proves to be a poor match for the capabilities and interests of its students.  Some have speculated that lots of struggling students would wash out of the program, gradually to be replaced by more academically-oriented students, thereby undermining the original mission of the school.

I don’t think so.  My guess is that the school would adapt and change.  The school is far more likely to replace its curriculum for the sake of its students than replace its students for the sake of its curriculum.

So, the IB curriculum is a concern for me.  I don’t think we should include a contractual term requiring that Madison Prep attain certification as an IB school.  I would prefer that the school maintain the flexibility to adopt whatever curriculum changes seem warranted in light of the actual experiences of its students.

5.   The student selection process.

Madison Prep is intended particularly though not exclusively to serve the educational needs of students of color who are not finding success in our existing schools.  In fact, the justification for the school that is most compelling is that it could change the trajectory of these young students’ paths from failure to success.

A complication is that a charter school cannot select its students.  The school is obligated to accept whoever applies.  If more students apply than the school can handle, those to be admitted are chosen on the basis of a lottery.

This raises concerns.  The IB curriculum could be attractive to already-motivated, successful students of all races.  Such students frequently have parents savvy enough to negotiate the charter school application process.  There is a fear that these students could end up squeezing out the students who are most in need of what Madison Prep could offer.

The most cynical view is that these successful students are whom Madison Prep is really most interested in, and its professed concern about struggling students is just a ruse designed to increase the chances of School Board approval.

I have expressed concerns about the likely make-up of the school myself.  I have perceived a potential mismatch between the students the school hopes to serve and the curriculum it seeks to employ and have wondered whether the school could kind of end up being neither fish nor fowl.

My fears on this score have been allayed.  From my conversations with Kaleem Caire and other Madison Prep sponsors, I’ve concluded that their concern is strongly and sincerely focused on those students who could most benefit from the school’s services.

I am reassured by evidence that the school’s sponsors plan to serve students who are not typically tabbed for success.  For example, the school’s business plan notes that “Madison Prep’s Director of Family and Community Engagement will work with local, county and state correctional departments and probation officers to ensure that students whose parents are incarcerated or on probation/parole are able to participate in their child’s education as well.”

I also note the school’s intent to assign homework regularly. The business plan explains, “Because Madison Prep realizes that not all families can assist with homework in the same way, two Madison Prep teachers will be available ‘on call’ for homework questions each weekday evening on a rotating basis and for a period of time on the weekends. Students will be instructed to call the “Teacher on Call” if they encounter a question about homework that they have tried unsuccessfully to answer on their own.”

To me, these two examples are evidence that Madison Prep sincerely intends to enroll the students who could most benefit from its services and that it has thought seriously and creatively about how to meet these students’ distinctive needs.

Still, it makes sense to take reasonable precautions.  I think any charter school contract should obligate Madison Prep to reserve an agreed-upon number of spots at the school for students from families below a threshold income level and/or who are below proficiency levels in reading and math on WKCE scores or other standardized assessments, and establish reasonable benchmarks for the retention of these students.

6.   Single-gender classes.

Madison Prep intends to provide gender-segregated classes to its students.  Or else – and I’m not sure how this is handled organizationally – it should be considered two separate schools, one for boys and one for girls.

This isn’t a big issue for me.  I understand that research has not identified clear benefits for single-gender education.  I assume it can be beneficial for some students but not for others.

I’m willing to defer to the Department of Public Instruction on this one.  DPI has indicated that it will take a close look at the legality of Madison Prep’s single gender approach if and when it reviews the terms of a proposed contract between Madison Prep and the school district.  If DPI finds it to be a problem, I imagine it would somehow order that classes be co-ed.  It seems to me that that’s something to which the school could adapt without major problems, if need be.

7.   Students with Special Needs.

A number of questions have arisen about Madison Prep’s willingness and capability to serve students with special needs.  It seems to me that there are two strands to this argument.

The first addresses the details of the school’s plans for serving special needs students.  The second is a more general point that expansion of charter schools can be bad for students with disabilities because the more students are provided options for different educational approaches, the more the fabric of an inclusive school model is frayed.  This works to the ultimate detriment of students with special needs, who benefit from attending classes with a broad range of students.

It seems to me that the first strand of this point can be addressed fairly easily.  Madison Prep should be required to contract with the school district for special education services.  This was a recommendation in the most recent administrative analysis of the Madison Prep proposal:

“In order to ensure that the District is fulfilling its role as LEA and that related services staff are appropriately licensed, it is recommended that Madison Prep contract with MMSD for case management services, all evaluations, and all services that exceed the capabilities of the Madison Prep special education staff.”

This makes sense to me.

If I understand the second strand of this argument correctly – and I may not – the point cuts against charter schools in general.  Whatever the merits of the argument, my vote will be determined by my view of the specifics of the Madison Prep proposal rather than my views on charter schools in general.

8.   Would success be replicable?

A concern that I and others have raised is that the Madison Prep model differs in so many ways from our existing schools that it might be difficult to identify what factors would be responsible if the school were successful.  This might make it a challenge to figure out what components of the model to try to replicate in our other schools.

First, this would be a great problem to have.

Second, if the school is successful, I think it’s inevitable that its success would be attributable in part to a culture of high expectations, to a belief ingrained in the culture of the school that its students could achieve at levels higher than even they might have imagined.  That’s an attitude that I think we’d all like to see reinforced in all our schools.

Third, if the school is successful, it seems likely that its longer school day and school year would play a significant role in students’ enhanced learning.  It would be useful for the school district to have evidence that longer school hours yield a payoff in increased learning for our struggling students.  This would help us justify the increased expenditures that would be required to lengthen the school day and year at our other schools.  (For our teachers who do not choose to work at Madison Prep, we couldn’t and wouldn’t want to extend their workdays without paying them for it.)

Fourth, to the extent that Madison Prep is successful, parents would demand that its features be incorporated into our other schools.  The pressure to operate our schools more like Madison Prep would likely come from the bottom up, as parents whose children might not have been selected in a Madison Prep lottery may well demand that their fallback schools do things more like Madison Prep.


We have a serious and persistent problem of underperformance of our African-American students.  We have been presented with a charter school proposal designed to attack the problem.  The school is based on inculcating a culture of hard work and high expectation  and has garnered significant community support and generous offers of financial assistance.

On the other hand, unless delayed a year, the establishment of the school will quite likely constitute a violation of our contracts with our teachers.  The school is based on a curricular model that does not have a track record of success with the students the school is intended to serve.  Additionally, its non-instrumentality structure would mark a sharp departure from the school district’s customary level of control even over its existing charter schools and would enable non-union teachers and staff.

In weighing the competing factors at stake, I find it helpful to think about the possible downsides that would attend whatever decision we make.

If we say yes to Madison Prep, what’s the worst that could happen?  Well, the school might not work out the way we hope.  If so, the school district will have invested a total of about $2.7 million over five years in a failed experiment.

What if we say no?  What are the potential downsides that a negative vote could elicit?

We’d never know whether the proposal could work.  We would deny ourselves whatever insights the operation of Madison Prep would generate for the school district.

We’d signal that we’re not confident enough in our own operations to willingly subject our schools to the bracing tonic of some competition.  We’d lose the opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves and our staff that perhaps with a different approach, our students of color could in fact achieve at far higher levels than we may have implicitly come to expect.

More significantly, we would dash the hopes of all those who have committed themselves to the Madison Prep proposal.

This has proven to be the most challenging aspect of the Madison Prep story for me to write about.  Stated simply, I lack the knowledge and cultural competence to appreciate the depths of the frustration and disappointment that our African-American community feels about the school district’s complicity in the shocking prevalence of failure among our African-American students.

We can talk about analytical shortcomings and curricular preferences in the Madison Prep proposal until the cows come home, but for a broad swath of our community, whatever we say amounts to nothing more than lips flapping.  It simply evades the heart of the matter.  Their children are failing and they see no reason for us to turn our backs on a proposal designed to help them succeed.

It can be easy for those of us whose interests are more abstract to overlook or minimize the depths of feeling of those more directly affected by the Madison Prep proposal.  I’m an old white guy and as privileged as they come, but even I cannot fail to be moved to the core when African-American mothers bravely speak to us of their fears for their sons.  There is afoot in our community an inchoate force of evil that somehow captures far too many African-American boys and deposits them in prison by the time they’re young men.  Simply put, these mothers are asking for our help to keep their children safe.  For many, and for complicated reasons, Madison Prep has emerged as an anchorage, as some sort of start, a foothold, a cause for hope.

How do you weigh in the analytical scales the well-founded fears and vulnerable hopes of a mother for her child?  I don’t know, but to the extent I reasonably can, I choose to err on the side of trying to nourish the hope.

And so, finally, I come down on the side of Madison Prep. I cannot support the current Madison Prep proposal because its implementation would clearly violate the terms of the school district’s current collective bargaining agreement.

But if the School Board’s vote on the Madison Prep proposal fails, I intend to offer a motion that we approve Madison Prep but postpone the opening of the school for one year, until September, 2013, after the current CBA expires.

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32 Responses to Madison Prep Closing Argument, Part II: Yes, but with a Delay

  1. Xochitl (its a girl's name) says:


    It continues to bother me that you question the appropriateness of having an IB Curriculum at Madison Prep. While some may think that IB is too much for “those kids,” what is your concern? As someone with extensive experience in working with under-performing and under-prepared students of color, I have first hand knowledge of the benefits of having an academically rigorous curriculum. Simply, when I, and other teachers, have high expectations of students, they work hard to meet those expectations. When I, and other teachers, have low expectations, students work just as hard to meet those, too.

    You reference Madison Prep’s mission and I am sure you have read the business and educational plans, too. You can see that not only is there rigor, but there is support for students to ensure success. Madison Prep cannot just demand performance, but academic and personal success has to be nurtured and grown, and there are programs and personnel in place to help those that need help. Further, like you said, if Madison Prep is not meeting its benchmarks MMSD can close the school. So what is the concern? (For more reading on the benefits of academic rigor, I suggest reading Authentic Instruction and Assessment, Common Standards for Rigor and Relevance in Teaching Academic Subjects by Newmann, King, and Carmichael)

    Perhaps it is too much to try to describe what it is like to work for a mission-driven school where all stakeholders: families, students, teachers, administration, support staff, and community members, are working toward a singular goal. I have that experience and it is incredible. Just because folks in Madison may not have seen or experienced what I describe doesn’t mean it is not happening or can happen. Thankfully, there are educators all over the nation that take under-performing and under-prepared students and get them ready for college. There is a need to change what is happening in Madison – half of our students of color are graduating – and the need is immediate. Thanks.

    • Mark says:

      Xochitl, I have seen mission driven schools where stakeholders are working towards a goal. Specifically, the elementary and middle schools my children attend in the MMSD. My youngest required remedial work in mathematics when we moved here, and MMSD has done a fabulous job with her. I’m sorry to hear you have not experienced them here, but just because you haven’t doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

      • Xochitl (its a girl's name) says:

        You are right. I haven’t seen it in the Madison schools and I have visited many. I’m glad that your children are having a positive experience in the schools. Imagine if that were the case for all children. But I ask rhetorically, why should the genetic lottery determine the chances of success in Madison schools? Close to 90% of White students graduate while 52% of Blacks and Latinos (combined average) graduate.

      • Mark says:

        Hmm. OK Xochitl, I’ll bite: what do you mean by the genetic lottery?

  2. Mark says:

    Thank you Ed. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful consideration I expected to get from you, and you did not disappoint (well, not much — more on that in a bit!) May I ask a couple questions about the nuts and bolts of your support, however. First, your two comments that

    1. “We can and should increase our tax levy sufficiently to cover these additional costs. This would ensure that the approval of Madison Prep would not compel us to reduce our expenditures on programs and initiatives at our existing schools.”


    2. “I think we should require a mid-course review in the third year of Madison Prep’s operation, when it will have sixth through eighth grades. We should identify in advance specific benchmarks the school would be required to meet in order to qualify to expand to ninth grade in its fourth year. If the school falls short, it could continue as a middle school for its five-year term. But it would be prohibited from expanding to high school until it had proved that its approach was working.”

    Do you intend to intend to formally include both of those terms as part of your motion on Monday? It sounds like yes for the second, but for the first I can’t tell. In other words, do you intend to make them a condition of your support? Since David wants me to make suggestions to you, let me make him happy here & suggest that you do make it one “package.” I know #1 may put yet another hurdle in MP’s way, but on the other hand, besides being important purely for the sake of the rest of the MMSD student body, it may alleviate the concerns of many other MMSD parents such as myself, perhaps in at least equal proportion to the number who predictably will recoil at any tax increase. Not to mention it will force the right wing ideologues posting comments over at et al in disingenuous support of MP only as means to weaken the public schools/hasten the privatization of secondary education, to put up or shut up, to back up their public *gushing* support for MP with acquiescence to pay the measly extra $11/yr addtl taxes to fund it (because I bet you dollars for donuts they will fight it unless you conjoin the two measures).

    I see you did not address the question I had hoped you would though, the question no one else has, including the Urban League: “what are the SPECIFIC reasons why should we have any expectation this will produce better results than the status quo?” Or rather you do address it, but only by punting, saying “to the extent I reasonably can, I choose to err on the side of trying to nourish the hope.” Which is valid, and I actually share some of that sentiment. But I still think it is VERY important we not completely, permanently sidestep ever asking & attempting to answer that question. Specifically, why the components beyond the increase of instructional hours (how much more classroom time than the rest of the district will they get anyway? My rough math says it’s about 33% more instruction time (2.5 more hrs per day + 4 more weeks per year). Frankly I would rate MP a colossal failure if it can’t measurably outperform the rest of MMSD merely due to that one factor alone. Given my expectation, I see the #2 above as probably a mere formality (though important safeguard to have), presuming the yardstick is reasonable.

    But I have some unease that there is an avoidable consequence here of MP succeeding exclusively because of the increased instruction hours. For many the perception may be that the ethnic and gender segregation are also necessary — not only your classmates must be the same color as you, but also your teachers (the message delivered by MP’s stated intention to hire only minorities). When those parts of the MP approach may really only be (IMO) placebos, and the increased instruction the real cure. Apparently many studies support this conclusion, but all that will be ignored here if MP is successful. Indeed I even worry that in the bigger picture that such perceptions may even do more harm than the school itself will do good, in the larger community, in the long run. I guess I’d amend your conclusion about “what’s the worst that could happen”: perhaps worse is the specter of it being successful, of people equating success with segregation when there is really NO direct correlation, and the havoc that perception will play on the relations within the rest of the MMSD and Madison as a whole. I lived for a time in England and observed mutually self-imposed cultural segregation between the British and Pakistanis, and … if you think the USA has race relation problems, you ain’t seen nothing. I despise what I saw. Maybe deep down it’s a big reason why, when moving here a couple years ago with two school age kids in tow, I chose to live in Madison instead of the various suburbs with their much-ballyhooed but monochromatic schools. Ed, *you* recognize that it’s the increased instruction time that will likely be the source of any success, in your section #8, but are you not worried as I am that the community will see the segregation as key components as well, and so it will not lead to direct support (including willingness to pay for) longer school days at other schools as you hope? In a way, for these reasons I almost wish your “failure to make three year objectives” clause, to limit it to being only a middle school, could be the plan even if MP succeeds. In other words, for three years an MP student can have (quoting you) “the culture of high expectations ingrained in students, that they could achieve at levels higher than even they might have imagined” instilled in them, and they could then bring that attitude back into the MMSD mainstream, which would 1) allow twice as many students to get benefit from MP, allowing them to double the size of the middle grade classes, 2) provide a benefit in HS to those who lose the lottery for MP, to observe this culture, maybe even share through osmosis (peer role models), 3) if the culture truly is ingrained, allow these returning students dispel this implicit idea that it’s all about having teachers and classmates all of color & the same gender, that they can coexist with white kids/opposite sex & learn from white teachers too. With that model, the upside could be even higher than you imagine in your conclusion? As you said of MP’s hoped “culture of high expectations”, “That’s an attitude that I think we’d all like to see reinforced in all our schools.” But it won’t, not if MP is a one-way pipe that successful students go in & never return from in order to seed/reinforce it in the rest of MMSD.

    OK, I went on a bender there, I know for a variety of reasons that the Urban League & Mr. Caire in particular sees full 6-12 instruction as a point not even open to discussion (beyond perhaps your condition of support, created for entirely different reasons). It might’ve all been maybe possible had the district taken some action, inside its existing structure, along the lines of your November ’09 letter, but … oh well, that train has long since left the station. But, coming back to what actually can be done, let me make David Blaska happy again, by making another suggestion, one both more modest & realistic: could you at least convince (or even strongarm?) Mr. Caire/MP to formally, explicitly reverse course on this public perception they have fostered that MP is only warmly welcoming of students and — maybe more importantly — teachers of color? I’m confused how any of that can be legal anyway, so it will probably not be achieved by him anyway, but the community perception here is what is important, and Mr. Caire has seeded some very potentially divisive ones (IMO) with some of his comments.

    I’ll conclude by again thanking you for this reasoned cost/benefit analysis and suggestion of modifications to the MP plan. I’m not going to pretend I’m thoroughly convinced by your arguments, but I like all the modifications you are suggesting, and if instituted they at least get me closer to feeling comfortable with the community going out on this limb. I also apologize this post was a lot more rambling than it needed to be, I should tighten it up more (maybe even kill that long paragraph entirely?), but … I have to get back to work 🙂

    • Mark –
      Thanks for your comments. If the initial motion to accept the Madison Prep proposal fails, I intend to make a motion that mirrors the first, except adds a proviso that the school not open until September, 2013. The other conditions I describe are ones that would be worked out through the process of negotiating a contract between the school and the school district. That contract would ultimately come back before the Board for approval.

      As to why we should have an expectation that we would see better results, I put the most reliance on the school’s commitment to changing the culture of learning for its students. The curriculum doesn’t matter if students ignore it and are unwilling to put in the hard work of learning. The idea of the school is that students would be seriously challenged to work hard and learn, and would be supported in their efforts, in ways that our existing schools can’t currently match. It would be a terrific accomplishment to make positive and genuine changes in the culture of learning for our underperforming students.

      • Mark says:

        Thank you for the reply Mr. Hughes, and again for providing this & all you do for the district. I hope those who are critical of you and others on the board because they feel you weigh the pros and cons of issues too inclusively, will at least recognize that you are doing what you were elected to do, conscientiously considering all angles & impacts, and what’s in the best long term interest of the entire district.

  3. Laura Chern says:

    I know I sound like a broken record but if you are willing to increase taxes for Madison Prep, I would hope you are also willing to raise taxes for the rest of the kids. Even with a Madison Prep, the district has to address the achievement gap. Use the extra money for things that are known to work.

    • Laura — I agree, though I suspect you might be a tad more willing to spend than I am.

      • Laura Chern says:

        I know you do Ed and I appreciate your efforts. Had other BOE members been willing to listen to you this discussion would have been about how the district should use additional tax revenue to support those kids who aren’t going to attend Madison Prep. Good Luck tonight!

  4. Charlotte says:

    How is it that other board members are supporting this proposal in spite of the obvious legal problem Mr. Hughes points out? Do they not care about getting sued? Beyond that, waiting a year will only prolong and fuel the public controversy and will do nothing to solve the other problems with the proposal, the most important, in my opinion, being the fact that they intend to take only kids from highly motivated families — these are not the kids causing the big achievement gap; it is the poor kids from unstable families. I don’t see those kids being the primary student body of this school. And I am wondering what they would do if more than half the applicants are white. Has Mr. Caire said how they would handle such a situation?

    • jjeastside says:

      Please Charlotte… it is not the children who are ‘causing the big achievement gap’ – please take care of your language – recognize how unnecessarily inflammatory this comment can be.

  5. Mad4madison says:

    Echoing Laura – if you are willing to support the idea of extended hours and an extended school year, I would expect you would do that for all of MMSD at the next MTI contract negotiations (2013) – all depending on the status of Act 10.

  6. Derrick Smith says:

    For All Our Kids,

    Did you really look at the statistics about how the district has and is failing most students of color? Most of the rhetoric is about the process not the problem. The problem is that we all should be ashamed of the fact that over half of our students are not graduating. This means many of these students will not get a job, will not pay needed taxes, may be incarcerated and again not get a job and again not pay taxes. It’s about the KIDS! We all sit on our high horse and say I have the answers for this. If it worked for my kids, these others should have succeeded as well. Those kids are doomed to fail any way. Don’t they know that, bcause they have bad up-bringing and it’s not the teachers fault, look at their parents.

    We can place blame wherever and however we want to, but that doesn’t solve the problem!

    MPA may not be the end all, but it’s a very good start! It ‘s part of the solution to help eliminate the problem. Many people say it will fail, will it succeed? We will never know, if we don’t try!

    Firstly, I’m on the Madison Prep Academy Board and I do want this to succeed for ALL students now and in the future. This just isn’t a Black and White thing. It’s a HUMAN thing! MPA will be educating low income white, black, brown, Asian, and anyother student that wants to work hard and succeed, within the confines of a limited number of students. Will it be more one color versus another? Probably, based on the socio-ecomomics that make-up the demographics of families in Madison.

    Secondly, I am an educated Black man who pays taxes and have had 2 boys go through MMSD schools. One is now employed as an educator in the MMSD. I don’t want to pay anymore taxes than the next person, but I feel that if we educate ALL and they in turn find work and become tax paying citizens, that might help all of us in the long run. For the person saying this will raise taxes, MPA is not asking for any more dollars than what the students of MPA would cost MMSD to educate. MMSD would be transfering dollars not asking for higher taxes to help MPA.

    By the way, have you heard of the new middle school in Madison? Badger Rock started this year as a charter school! This school for 48 students (currently) was passed without any of the issues, venom and process that MPA has gone through. WHY? I’ll let you come up with your own answer. But, before you do, please peruse the following link. (You may have to copy to your web browser.)

    Guess how many of those students are from low income households and are in danger of being a negative statistic? Not many! Where were the questions about taxes, longer school year, non-instrumentality with Badger Rock?

    Badger Rock’s best practices will not be transferable to other MMSD schools. Yet, MPA is held under different standards! Why? Badger Rock will cost more to operate, because MMSD will spend millions in building the facility and up-keep. MPA will be underwriting the cost of securing and maintaining its own facility.

    This is not to say that a charter school like Badger Rock that instructs a very very small segment of our kids is not needed or wanted. I want ALL KIDS to Succeed and if Badger Rock helps, that’s great. It’s one of many types of schools all across the country that are educating our kids. WHY NOT MPA?

    Thirdly, in all the debut on MPA and I have heard, seen and been involved in most of it as a board member, I again state , as I have ad nauseum. “WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS!” Almost all of the debut has been on the process, NOT THE KIDS! It’ll cost too much, why single gender?, what about the unions?, will it succeed?, MMSD has done a good job (only for half of the student population), etc.

    It’s time for the adults to get out of the sand box and let the KIDS PLAY! Madison was once revered as “The Best Place to Live in America” by Money Magazine. Now where does Madison rank? I really don’t care about rankings as long as we are able to help, support, educate, love and comfort ALL OUR CHILDREN! If only 48% of white students were graduating and the majority of those kids were incarcerated, would we be talking the same talk about MPA? I don’t think so! And if that was the case, I would still fight for them as much, because ALL CHILDREN MATTER! That’s way MPA is relevant now and will be more so in the future!

    There’s an old African Proverb that states “It takes a village to raise a child”. What village do you live in? Aren’t all our children worth more than dollars and cents and all the debut about their education? I’ll use some of the lyrics from Michael Jackson’s song “Man In The Mirror”.

    I’m Gonna Make A Change,
    For Once In My Life
    It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
    Gonna Make A Difference
    Gonna Make It Right . . .

    I’ve looked in the mirror and I know all children don’t look like me, but I want to make a difference for ALL OUR CHILDREN! Even if it’s one small step at a time. Let’s see how MPA will do. Let’s believe in its success, not predispose it to fail!

    Let’s Make It Right!


    • To say that Badger Rock “passed without any of the issues” is simply untrue. The budget, educational program, facilities and all else were scrutinized and the budget issues nearly led to it not being approved.

      On demographics, Badger Rock is 67% Low Income, 40% Hispanic and 23% African American. All of these are higher than the district %s and all but the African American % are higher than Sennett, which has been designated as the first refusal attendance area for the school.

      I’m not 100% sure. but I also believe the facilities costs per student is lower at Badger Rock and I know there is not a $675 per student fee going to the sponsoring organization, like there would be for ULGM.

      I am really tired of Madison Prep officials and supporters making things up and disseminating them.

      • TJ is right. Badger Rock isn’t a great example for Madison Prep supporters. As TJ points out, the school is serving a particularly diverse group of students, most of whom are low-income. There were no questions about a longer school year and non-instrumentality status because neither were in the final proposal for Badger Rock. (I seem to remember that the initial proposal for Badger Rock called for a different school calendar, but that didn’t work out.) The school is also considerably less expensive for the school district than Madison Prep is projected top be. MMSD will not be “spending millions to build the facility,” believe me. Instead, one of the great attractions of the school is that it is a partnership with the Center for Resilient Cities, which is providing the building.
        When we approved Badger Rock last December, here is what the net cost to the district of the school was projected to be for the five years of the contract period:
        2011-12: $42,741
        2012-13: $31,123
        2013-14: $134,360
        2014-15: $91,450
        2015-16: $80,893
        Comparable figures for Madison Prep are in my post; they are much higher.
        Those with differing views of Madison Prep have plenty of fodder for discussions and exchanges on genuine issues. Inaccurate claims about other situations intended to suggest that the district and Board are not acting in good faith in their consideration of Madison Prep seem to me to be counterproductive.

  7. Will Williams says:

    I cannot answer for Ed, but can say I live in the same village as you and oppose the idea of MPA being the solution to the the achievement gap, when education or lack of is only one step toward solving societal inequalities that MPA has not addressed nor will it if MMSD Board vote yes.My four grandchildren graduated from the MMSD,two decided to continue their education ,one have a double masters and the other is a freelance court reporter with the highest certification in that field, neither had the pleasure of going to Saint James or other private schools.

    You show a lot of interest in the outcome on Dec.19 being a yes vote.Was your interest perked by the MPA proposal laden with the Waiting for Super Man script and playing the race card to the hilt,If not where were you when I was the only person of color at MMSD Board Meetings speaking against Military Recruiters having 100% access to students as they saw fit ,Thankfully The MMSD Board adopted a policy that gave a little protection to students.

    Where were you doing the protest at the Capitol when we were fighting to stop Walkers assault on programs that helped the poor and working poor,and cutting the funds for education. Oh how I wished more people from the village here in Madison had been standing with me, and felt somewhat comforted by the bus loads of village people from Milwaukee,Chicago,Ohio, Indiana ,California,the State of Washington and other locations standing with me.

    Unlike Ed I am not an old white guy as privileged as they come. I am a man of color from the village and appreciate the many hours he has spent at public hearings,closed hearings, analyzing the MPA Proposal and other writings regarding the achievement gap and charter schools in general.I thank him for his passion and believe however he choose to vote will be cast in what he believe is in the best interest of the under achieving students in the district. I cannot thank him enough for that.

    As I sit here my mind go back to the first MPA which included a JROTC program modeled after a charter school in Springfield,Ma created by a Partnership Of the Urban League and MA National Guard. If the MPA is approved as a non instrumentality will it have a JROTC Program? I hope not since it has been made clear by President Clinton’s Secretary Of Defense (Cohen) when he stated JROTC is The Defense Department’s best tool for recruitment. No Public School should a Pipeline to The Military.

    • Will Williams says:

      The last sentence above should have been No Public School Should Be A Pipeline To The Military. Since you are a MPA Board Member can you explain or have Kaleem explain what he meant in his testimony at The Senate Hearing On SB22 when he said he was an Education Entrepreneur.

      • Will –
        Thanks for weighing in and for your kind words. You make an excellent point that we hear from many folks when particular issues arise that directly affect their interests. Then we also hear from a smaller number of people like you who show up regularly and challenge us to confront uncomfortable realities even when you don’t have a direct stake
        in the outcome, but only some kind of hope that we as a Board might live up to your expectations for us. We’re always listening, even if sometimes it’s hard to tell.

  8. Larry Winkler says:

    First, I need a clarification on the non-proficiency charts. My guess is that the charts are misleading. Unless I’m wrong, the kids being measured in grades 3, 4, … 10 are not the same kids; this is a static snapshot of proficiency as of some year, or an average across multiple years? We do know from longitudinal studies that proficiency drops for many kids as they progress into the highest grades; that’s to be expected especially for those near the cut score boundaries, as the need for master of math and reading skills is more critical in higher grades. In that sense, the chart might make some sense, making it more misleading.

    If the kids are not the same in each grade, the 3rd grade readers, at 49% and 41% respectively, by 10th grade, might show MMSD gap significantly worse than the state average rather than better, though both would be abysmal.

    My own view of the MPA proposal is decidedly pessimistic. Having studied psychometrics, educational and child psychology, statistics, and read all kinds of newfangled ideas about improving education since the mid 60’s, and worked in the research end of this area, I’m quite confident that this new attempt of idealism and straw grabbing will have no beneficial effect. Why? Because the real experts who can contribute are really boring and make poor politicians and their arguments and ideas cannot be prepackaged into sound bites and their ideas go against the preconceived notions.

    Nonetheless, if by some magic MPA can be successful, we might as well not delay, since nothing will get better in the interim under any current scenario.

    It seems one way to implement for the 2012-13 school year would be to appropriately abide by the contract with MTI for the first year, then for the subsequent years, hire teachers under a new contract. I don’t see that teacher continuity is important here, if those first set of teachers, hired under the MTI contract, refuse to be paid less for more hours. Kids in the second year would have new teachers anyway, if MPA is adding a new grade to support each year.

    I have not read who MPA expects to hire.Teach for America types for whom the experience will look good on their CVs to grad school? Teachers willing to sacrifice, who have no family of their own? Teachers who’ve been laid off and be happy with anything? KIPP teacher types who will burn out in two to three years? Professionals from other fields who think teaching will be easy, who think teachers are failing because they’re lazy and not that smart and belong to a union?

    • Larry —
      The proficiency score came straight from the DPI website: I can’t explain or defend the methodology. My principal point is that, using common metrics, it appears that African-American students in Madison are not performing as well as the statewide average for African-American students.
      My sense is that Madison Prep intends to hire more experienced teachers than Teach for America types, but I don’t have anything specific to share on that.

      • Thank you. The data does come from that DPI source. The data you cite is the data from November 2010, choosing “Data Analysis”, “District Madison Metropolitan”, Grade: “All Tested Grades”, Subject: “Reading” or “Mathematics”, Level: “Basic + Min Perf + …”, and “WSAS: WKCE and WAA Combined”, View by: “Race/Ethnicity”, Compare To: “State”.

        That was easy.

        What was a little more difficult, and took too much manual labor on my part was organizing the MMSD by cohort group and showing the trends for the same students over the years. I cannot display that information in a table format in a comment, so I will simply state some takeaways for Reading score for Black kids, measuring the Level percentage at the basic/Min Perf as Ed’s table did.

        The data shows that Black kids’s WSAS scores are middle to high 40%’s starting out and dropping to typically high 30%’s by 8th grade. The improvement ranges from 6% to 10% between grade school and 8th grade but there are some cohorts which were basically flat. However, by the 10th grade WSAS score, the percent at only the Basic level jumps by 20% and in a few samples by 30%.

        For the kids who started 4th grade in 2005, their percentages stayed flat at 39% into the 8th grade. At the 10th grade in 2011, their percentages jumped to 52%. The cohorts who started 6th grade in 2006 improved to 31% by 8th grade in 2008, but jumped to 51% by 10th grade. The cohorts who started 7th grade in 2006, got worse in 8th grade, going from 33.5% to 36.5%, then jumping to 53% by 10th grade in 2009.

        What the data seems to show looking at the same cohorts over time is that MMSD has made absolutely no progress in Reading as measured by the WSAS tests for Black kids and any improvements that might be seen by 8th grade do not hold by the time the 10th grade test is administered.

        • Interesting Larry, except the cohorts are very unstable so these are not the same kids. If you look at the most recent numbers for African American 10th graders ( you will see that 173 out of 435 entered their current school that year. For the cohort you looked at here are the % African American students new to school each year: 4th grade, 22.5%, 5th grade, 23.0%; 6th grade,18.4%, 7th grade, 20.5%; 8th grade, 15.0%.

          There do not seem to be stats posted for “new to district” students who enter before the third Friday count, nor do the quoted numbers differentiate between new to school and new to district (, but clearly mobility is a huge issue. It should be noted that the WKCE data from DPI at the district level does not include “first year in district” and at the school level does not include “first year in school,” but that the effects of mobility almost certainly persist.

          That limited stats we have on mobility are the reason I’ve been pushing for MMSD to produce more comprehensive data, get a better handle on the relationship between mobility and achievement, and then target those students it impacts with help. It is also one reason why I think Madison Prep is not the answer. Success at that school would require stability.

      • TJ,

        I’m aware of the mobility issue and saying “same” cohort was somewhat misleading because the cohorts may not be all the same kids. I know from talking to Rainwater on many occasions, and hearing him in others, the mobility factor was a key issue in trying to create a common curriculum across grade and middle schools. This runs contrary to rubrics such as “one size does not fit all”, “schools are not factories”, “every student should have an IEP”, “all students are unique”, and “The 7 Intelligences”. (If you can tell, I’m far from sympathetic towards these rubrics).

        The mobility data reference is valuable showing mobility of Black kids, in the lower grades sitting at 30% at the lower end to 50% at the higher end (a set of box and whiskers charts of this data would be useful!)

        Your desire for MMSD to collect more and better data is laudable, but I think MMSD’s efforts should first be focused on understanding the data they have — and the last I looked, they have quite a bit. Very little is more useless than Excel-spreadsheeting of data, along with Excel’s lame charting feature (nee business graphics), and then spitting the stuff out in PDF format. I’m a big proponent of exploratory data analysis (EDA) and sophisticated graphs and charts starting with Tukey’s seminal work, and others more recent like Cleveland, to see the important patterns in the data we already have.

        • Larry
          I think they have the data they need, but need to also look at the first year in district/school before the third Friday, disaggregate the first year in district from first year in school, do some regressions or other analysis around achievement and mobility including a look at the lag impacts over the years, . They also need to make this part of the community, board and administrative efforts to understand and address the issues.

      • Mark says:

        Thomas, that ~1/3 “new to school” statistic is very intriguing. It’s a pity we can’t find out how many are new to the district. That might clarify what the real issue is with the 1/2 minority graduation rate & low scores. Put simply, if the issues are evenly spread across the continuing student & new to district demographic, then Madison Prep could make a difference. But if the issues are disproportionately concentrated in the student population that are not continuously in the district from about 4th grade or earlier, that’s a population that’ll never have the opportunity to go to Madison Prep anyway (right?)

        Put another way … I would love to see a chart of academic performance of minority students that continuously remain in the district from 3rd/4th grade though 10th and/or graduation. Is that possible? That would be a far better measure of the job the district is doing educating minorities than the raw numbers in Ed’s post. Including test scores and percentages that include kids that are only in their first or second or even third year in the district is extremely misleading, it measures the job that other districts did with these kids, not MMSD. I think I’m just catching up with conclusions you’ve already come to, Thomas, but just want to state it for myself.

        It is SO frustrating that we are trying to make a decision on this matter without really having a clear handle on what the precise nature of the problem (how do test scored break down according to in-district stability/mobility). The district should have the data for that … they just need to create a new report?

  9. Corky Edwards says:

    You are overly concerned about MTI when you should be concerned about children. A law suit or grievance filed by MTI will further erode public trust in MTI. One could argue that you are protecting them in this regard. Do what is ethical and moral — not what is legal, and not what benefits the teachers. If they want to file a grievance let them do so. Let the ULGM made the decison to delay the project by one year.

    You also rationalize your position the ability to negotiate the CBA next year to allow the Charter School Labor requirements are permissible. The likehood of being successful in that regard is grim at best. That should be a fall back position if MTI files the grievance–a self defeating move on their part. Vote to support the Charter School now, and let the chips fall where they may.

    • Laura Chern says:

      Mr Edwards,
      The union exists to protect members rights by enforcing an legally binding contract. It seems as if you want the Board to vote “yes” on Madison Prep so that the union would be forced to file a grievance. How does a costly lawsuit help MMSD kids? When the MP board changed from instrumentality to non-instrumentality, they knew that it would be impossible for the BOE to support the proposal without the result being a lawsuit. I am beginning to doubt the sincerely of MP supporters such as yourself who seem more interested in bashing the BOE and MTI than in providing an improved education.

  10. Corky Edwards says:

    This isn’t about the union, it’s about children and education. What about the children’s right to a good education. You doubt MP supporters as some supporters and others likely doubt the MMSD, the BoE and MTI is doing what is right for children. The BoE should do what is right for the children, regardless of the other factors. Hughes seems to be making decisions on politics, not children’s rights. Kids can’t vote, so the BoE needs to act on behalf of the kids. How does a delay help kids? Your rebuttal sounds like you are more interested in protecting union member rights regardless of the needs of children. Besides, the teachers for MP are not MTI members, are they? So who is the Union protecting by being inflexible or litigious? Why don’t you ask John Matthews the question you posed in your rebuttal, “How does a costly lawsuit help MMSD kids?”

  11. dave says:

    Dear Ed,
    Thank you for writing such a meticulous and persuasive justification for your decision. As a casual but interested observer, your posts are very much appreciated.

    There is one point in your post that I do not understand. You wrote:
    “Why shouldn’t these teachers have the right to that choice? How paternalistic would it be for us to vote down a non-instrumentality Madison Prep because we’re unwilling to allow a teacher to choose to work for less in what the teacher may view as a more rewarding work environment? Whose interests are we serving?”

    Of course, teachers should be able to choose where they work. A concern that I have not heard addressed is what happens if Madison Prep finds it difficult or impossible to hire the quality teachers they desire for the salary they have budgeted? If a teacher could choose between MMSD, with ~25% fewer instructional hours, better benefits, and no need to be ‘on call’, or Madison Prep for approximately the same salary, how many teachers would find Madison Prep compelling? Maybe Madison Prep is right and this is a non-issue. But if it is an issue, what is the fallback plan? Is it asking the school board to increase its budget? Will there be cuts in other areas in the Madison Prep budget to cover unanticipated overages in salaries, should they need to be raised? From my perspective, Madison Prep’s non-instrumentality charter, if it is given, should come with the condition that the school district’s spending is fixed and non-negotiable during the five year evaluation period you propose (maybe this is already the case, but I have not seen this discussed).

    Also, to those commenters whose responses seem to fall into the general category of ‘won’t anyone please think about the children?’, there is no way you can read this post (or any of the other excellent ones on Ed’s blog) and level this criticism credibly. The school district and the community have a responsibility to educate all of its children, and there is no one perfect plan. Resources are finite. Madison Prep may be reasonable and offer an innovative way to begin addressing the achievement gap. But its proponents would be well served by making data-driven arguments about its cost-effectiveness relative to other programs instead of simply demonizing those who disagree with them.

  12. hlandsmanrd Landsman says:

    Here is the message I just sent to all Board of Education members.

    Dear BOE Members – I am writing to encourage you to find a way to make Madison Prep a reality.

    For those of you who don’t know me, I was MMSD’s first Coordinator of Grants and Fund Development, serving from early 1995 until retiring in June 2007. Before that I served on the Urban League board in the late 1980s and early 1990s, shortly after the League (under Betty Franklin-Hammonds’ leadership) issued its compelling report that put the achievement gap issue(back) on the district’s and community’s radar screen, and during the League’s successful advocacy for re-establishing a middle school in South Madison. I also served as a community volunteer on one of the Madison Schools 2000 strategic planning task forces (the one on student assessment, where I worked closely with MMSD’s former Curriculum & Instruction Director Elaine Lohr).

    By the time the new Grants Office position was posted, my recent experiences with MMSD had stirredmy passions on the achievement gap issue, revealed that there were many talented educators of good will working for the district, and that the district as an institution was serious about tackling this issue. I came to see the Grants Office position as a chance for me to stop lobbing grenades and work inside the system to help close the achievement gap.

    Early in my Grants Office tenure, and in the wake of the State Journal and WISC-TV’s “civic journalism” initiative on the achievement gap, Superintendent Wilhoyte launched the Equity,Diversity and Advocacy (EDA) Audit that led the BOE to create its three over-arching goals re: 3rd grade reading proficiency, completion of algebra by the end of 9th grade, and 94% as the standard for student attendance across all student groups. In the wake of the EDA Audit, MMSD also joined with over two dozen similar districts around the country to form the Minority Achievement Network which, among other things, supported Harvard Professor Ron Ferguson’s ground-breaking research that (a) showed MMSD having a racial achievement gap that transcended income levels, and (b) pointed to positive relationships with school staff as a much more significant success factor for students of color than for their white peers.

    In the following years, and with substantial involvement of the UW School of Education, the district launched major staff development initiatives around the Big Three goals and, with support from the state’s SAGE program, reduced class sizes in the primary grades. These initiatives were complemented by new community-based efforts like the Schools of Hope tutoring program and a wide array of less high-profile companion initiatives – e.g., after-school programs led by MSCR, positive behavior support teams, family literacy programming, the Allied Community Education Center, etc. – many of which were supported by grants I helped secure.

    During these years, I was feeling good about my contributions to the cause and about the good faith efforts by the district and its community partners to address the gap. So, it’s especially depressing to find — despite all the above-mentioned initiatives — that MMSD and our community still face a gap that’s at least as bad as when Ms.Franklin-Hammonds and the League issued the report that helped set all the above-mentioned interventions in motion. The current gap also has me suspecting that too many of our schools are providing what amounts to a toxic environment for too many of our AfricanAmerican and Latino students, and that we desperately need to experiment with models like Madison Prep that create a substantially different school climate and culture.

    I’ve been in New York for the past few weeks dealing with urgent family issues, and have only been able to follow the latest discussions about Madison Prep online. What I’ve read has me wondering if there are ways that haven’t yet been explored to address the most critical concerns of BOE members. For example, if MMSD can’t have a non-instrumentality school without violating the contract with MTI until the current agreement ends, could you contract with the Urban League – as you do with 4K early childhood centers, and (at least during my MMSD tenure) with Operation Fresh Start – to be the provider of educational services for Madison Prep’s target group of students? If you’re concerned that Madison Prep won’t serve enough of this target group, can you insist on that as one of the terms and conditions of a service contract with the League? And if Madison Prep is having a good first year in 2012-13, and as the current MTI contract nears its expiration, could you then consider incorporating it into the district as a non-instrumentality school?

    I suspect that a significant number of district residents feel (and have long felt) that the achievement gap is the fault of Black parents and the Black community, that the district is (largely) without fault, and that Black folks need to stop whining and get their own act together. To me, Madison Prep represents the Black community’s best effort to date to move beyond criticism and articulate a positive vision for how to successfully educate its kids. And it means a great deal to me that an esteemed scholar like UW Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings is such a prominent advocate for the school. After decades of White-dominated institutional efforts coming up way short, I feel strongly that the League and its supporters deserve this shot.

    So, if you decide tonight to reject the current proposal for Madison Prep, I urge you to not let the idea die, but to continue working on a Plan B that enables the school to start up as planned in Fall 2012. Thank you for your consideration, and sorry for weighing in so late in the game.

    Sincerely yours,

    Howard Landsman
    Retired MMSD Grants andFund Development Coordinator

  13. Mary Battaglia says:

    I appreciate the need for something to be done to eliminate the gap between poor and minority students and white higher income students at MMSD.
    While I wanted to be excited about Madison Prep, I just could not get there. I see this issue as an issue for the entire school district and all it’s students. I also agree with MP advocates that MTI needs to represent the teachers and not the community. MTI does not represent me or my kids and Matthews and MTI should not be deciding if we have 4K, MP, or anything else.
    We should, increase our academic expectations and quit justifying poor behavior with this ridiculous Positive Behavior Model that was NOT tested on a population of minority or poor students.
    We should, improve and revamp our summer school program that somehow targets the very population Mad Prep is wanting to help, but is not providing the academic recovery credit or desirable outcome to help student get back on track.
    We should, look into School Within a School Programs at each High School. I have lived in places where such a program uses staff, facility and provides specialized programs for various emphasis. No reason such a program could not focus on minority students.
    We should, require every student to take the PSAT and the ACT test (I hear this is to happen soon) in every high school, instead of those stupid WKCE test.
    We should, be providing more course work in conjunction with MATC, to provide a high school degree along with a certification program for students not focused on college…..there are models of this reducing drop out rates in North Carolina. Kids graduate with a dual h.s. and certification in an area of interest at the same time.
    There are so many things MMSD could be doing. We have blinders on and are still educating our kids as though this is the 1980’s and 80% of our students are white and from college educated homes, and all want to go to UW. We need to find and use TESTED models for our new population which is 43% minority and low income. The school has not adapted to the new population it is educating. There however is no reason the district can’t adapt and educate all the students in this manner.

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