Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the Madison school district’s achievement gap problems and other challenges we face. I’ve also been responding to the outlandish notion that Madison is a failing school district whose students deserve private school vouchers as their only lifeline to academic success.
At times like this, I find it helpful to remember that Madison’s schools are educating many, many students who are succeeding. Some of them are succeeding spectacularly. With apologies to those I’m overlooking, here’s a brief run-down on some of our stars —
Madison Memorial’s recently-formed science bowl team won the Wisconsin state championship in January. The team of seniors Srikar Adibhatla, Sohil Shah, Thejas Wesley and William Xiang and sophomore Brian Luo will represent Wisconsin in the National Science Bowl Championship in Washington, D.C. in April.
On March 22, Madison East won the 2013 Euro Challenge Midwest regional round in Chicago. The team of Seth Campbell, Maggie Caplan, Emily Barry, Wendy Hoang, and Eric Mattson took the top prize for their efforts expounding on Spain and unemployment. They’ll also be off to nationals in April, but they’ll be heading to New York City.
Madison West’s rocketry club is the reigning national champion. Last May, the team of sophomore Meng Lou and juniors Hanwook Chua, Tashi Aruktsang and Suzanne Hanle placed first at the 10th annual Team America Rocketry Challenge finals, besting 99 teams from across the country. The West team then traveled to London for the international championship, where they finished second to a team from France.
Last spring the Memorial forensics team won their 5th consecutive state championship at the Wisconsin Forensic Coaches Association State Tournament. Eight Memorial students were named individual state champs: Gretchen Schmook in Demonstration Speaking, Abhilash Sandireddy in Extemporaneous Speaking, Matthew Berry in Farrago, Catherine Bartzen in Poetry, Eric Larson and Sachin Dharwadker in Playacting, Edwin Wu in Public Address, and Mallory Durlauf in Special Occasion Speaking.
Individual Madison students earning recognition include Memorial senior Sohil Shah (also a member of the school’s science bowl team), who was Wisconsin’s only regional finalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Sohil has also been selected as a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search 2013, one of three from Wisconsin. Sohil began his research at the UW-Madison under the auspices of MMSD’s wonderful Science Research Internship Program.
The Siemens Award for Advanced Placement is given to the top male and female performers on AP tests in each state. Amy Hua of West is the female Wisconsin winner for 2012. Amy is multi-talented. She was also the 2011 winner of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO)’s Young Artist Concerto Competition.
Representing our middle schools, Aisha Kahn of Spring Harbor Middle School won the Wisconsin state spelling bee last week. She’ll also be heading off to Washington to represent Wisconsin at the national spelling bee.
It is not often that our elementary school students are singled out for their accomplishments. But there is no holding back Van Hise 4th grader Awonder Liang. Last Saturday he became the youngest American ever to earn chess master status, as certified by the United States Chess Federation.
Our Madison schools can’t take credit for making Awonder Liang an amazing chess player. Sohil Shah would have excelled whatever school he attended. But with all our challenges, our Madison public schools are still able to provide our amazingly accomplished students with some wonderful opportunities to develop their gifts. We are entitled to feel some pride as we celebrate their achievements.
p.s. – In other realms of endeavor, the West boys cross-country team won the state D1 championship this fall, edging out LaFollette’s team, which finished second, and the Memorial boys swimming team won their third straight state championship.