"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Sounds Familiar!

So, Wisconsin schools are all in danger of failing to meet NCLB achievement criteria! I've been tooting this horn for years. I hope to high Heaven that somebody finally pays attention. Frank Schultz didn't write a sentence in this article that hasn't been shouted from the rooftops (or from this blog) before. It is unconscionable that the powers that be simply kept the status quo, wasting untold millions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of hours of instruction time over the last decade to arrive at the point everyone knew they'd be at today back at the inception of this idiotic NCLB legislation. Now that the rubber is hitting the road and the data back up what anybody with half a brain knew what the outcome would be, suddenly it's all: we need to be excused for our inability to meet criteria that could never have been met in the first place.

Yes, there is an important emphasis on student achievement now. Yes, accountability is coming home to roost. But what is the true impetus of the NCLB legislation? Most notably, students who graduate from high school in our country without even the most rudimentary abilities necessary to function in society, should be at the top of the list of "why we need reform." Are we hopping mad that billions of dollars are wasted every year on an impotent public school system? Of course. Is it a blinking shame that the US has fallen to abysmal levels compared to our world peers in student achievement? Dang right! But a public school system that cannot keep the finger on the pulse of it's customers (those who would employ or take in as secondary students their "product" graduates) is probably first and foremost the causative impelling all the rage.

My observation over time is that schools seem to view the students as their customers. That is not the case. The students are their product. Those who would employ their product are their customers. School administrations take great pride in serving the needs of and protecting the interests of their students. That job belongs to the parents, who are often minimized by district actions while simultaneously being vilified for their lack of participation in their children's school lives. If they would reflect on their attitude towards parents, maybe they will discover why more parents won't step up.

So, how can public schools reform in meaningful ways? They can listen, REALLY LISTEN to what their customers need. Universities need students who are ready to take university level classes, not those who must waste thousands of dollars on course work to bring them up to the university level, which is supposed to be what high school does. Employers need workers with a strong work ethic, who can make change when the computers go down and who understand customers are priority one, not their cell phone conversation or latest utube download. Most of all, society at large needs people who are critical thinkers and who resist group-think mentality. Design an educational curriculum to meet these needs, and you will be successful!

Monday, November 28, 2011

School Board Committee Meetings of the Whole Tonight at 6:30

Click on the post to see the agenda for tonight's school board committee meeting of the whole. Finance will address the new budget process and how budget reconciliations will be handled with the new District Finance Manager, Doreen Treuden.

My girls have a choir concert tonight and I won't be able to attend, or may only hit the first 15 minutes if I do. I already had to miss an important meeting to attend the very belated 11-12 budget presentation in September, so I'm going to the concert tonight for sure.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Commercial Featuring School Board Member Supporting Walker is Misleading

Click on the post to see the article in the Journal Sentinel Online regarding commercial featuring the school board member (identified in the article as Waukesha School Board member Karin Sue Rajnicek) lauding Governor Walker's school finance reform. The part that makes one hot under the collar is when she says they are "saving money from our biggest costs AND PUTTING IT BACK INTO THE CLASSROOM WHERE IT BELONGS." Really? How exactly is a funding cut redistribution of funding? There are no funds being redistributed to anybody or anything. It's all CUT CUT CUT. Or take from savings and pray the boiler holds together another year. She must not pay attention during the finance section of their meetings.

Even if ECSD administration had not locked in contracts only expecting 5 percent contribution to the insurance instead of the targeted 12 percent, there still wouldn't have been extra cash to throw at programming. They might have dodged the whole "take the deficit out of the fund 10 balance" problem, but as for any money being left to invest in the classroom, that is pure fantasy on somebody's part. A very sad misrepresentation of what is truly happening across our state.

That brings up the next topic, that of the rabid recall fever taking Wisconsin by storm. I support the proponents right to seek a recall. I even respect their dogged determination to show up at every public gathering that won't throw them out (though I do kinda draw the line at them soliciting signatures at the St. John's Bazaar last weekend). But in the end, I can't with all good conscience rationalize spending a predicted $650,000 in state funding to finance a recall and untold millions in local funding to put on special elections all over Wisconsin because we disagree with a particular political party which so happens to have won the popular vote last year. Unless being ignorant of the finer points of school financing is a crime (or maybe just ignorant in general), there is little evidence that applying the recall process to Walker is called for. Sure, he's a nincompoop and a fool, but let's consider the whopping 30 % voter turnout / apathy that ushered this ignoramus into office in the first place. Any recall election should take place only with the folks who originally took their civic duty seriously and prioritized voting on that first Tuesday in November last year. Since there is no way to prove who voted last fall, there is no way to recreate the voter roster for a recall. Those who suddenly got "non-participants" remorse do NOT get a say in a recall. Next time, get off your ass and vote.

Monday, November 14, 2011

School Board Packet

Well, I was gone this weekend and biffed on posting the link to the packet. It's always late anyway, and this month was no different, not getting packets before the weekend to review has been a bit hectic. I linked to the whole packet so you can see all the data that is being reviewed tonight. They throw all the achievement data at the board at once: MAP, WKCE, AP, ACT, PLAN, EXPLORE and if that doesn't make your eyes glaze over in sheer data blitz-krieg fashion, they're throwing in a few ways to look at the budget that is entirely foreign to everyone involved. If that doesn't get them, then the "analysis" by the superintendent regarding enrollment, funding and equalized property values compared to like-sized districts, conference mates and other local districts will be the kill shot. I call this the annual data-blitz meeting. Usually, it's only achievement data. This year, to add a bit of spice to life, they've included budget and enrollment "trends" to the mix. Last year, the board asked them not to do all the data at once again, as it is overwhelming to look at all the data at one time. "Could we get this in smaller chunks next time?" Apparently not.

It will be interesting to me what topics come up for discussion and which ones will become a "back burner" item due to sheer volume of data being sifted through? Based on what I choose to cover in the paper, I'll address the other items here. There's more than enough to go around!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ohio Voters Speak Loudly

Good grief, it's snowing like crazy outside (I just noticed). I shouldn't complain because I managed to make it all the way through fall soccer season without enduring one flake of the stuff, but I hate winter. I guess I better secure boots for my various kids!

Back to Ohio. Their Governor tried the same thing ours did with public sector unions, but put it to a vote of the people. They also included all public sector employees, not singling out those who belonged to a subgroup that just happened to help elect him. Ohio citizens spoke loudly and in record numbers for an "off year" election. 63% of them sided with labor on this issue.

This issue isn't as clear cut as the unions will have you believe. For one thing, they poured some 30 million dollars into fighting the law severely limiting collective bargaining. That's a lot of scratch. I presume the opposite side spent similar amounts. Imagine what Ohio schools might do with that money?

Unions would have you believe that demonizing the union is simply class warfare. Untrue. There are many union rules which enable boat anchors to keep their jobs at the expense of fabulous employees. This was pointedly illustrated in the last year in Wisconsin when a newer award-winning teacher got laid off while undoubtedly some place-holder who's been marking time for the last 5 years of so kept his or her job. Exhibit A: Years on the job does not equate to competence.

How about that benefits part of collective bargaining? In 2006, the ECSD found a health care package that cost 2-3 thousand dollars less PER EMPLOYEE to purchase. Did the district reap any benefit from their due diligence with taxpayer funds for this miracle they wrought? No, because the contract was written as total compensation package. The savings went into the teacher's pockets. So, if the staff members want to know how they are supposed to pay for their 5% contribution to the health care benefit package, I recommend they stretch their memories back to that (effective raise). While they're at it, they can thank the district for effectively saving them money on their expected contribution to their health care package. 5% of 15K is a lot better than 5% of 18 or 19K.

The new contract that administration rushed into before everybody knew exactly how big the cuts were going to be also benefit staff. Governor Walker asked for a full 12% contribution to Health Care. Reasoning that they had already realized such a huge savings in 2006, administration did not ask for the full contribution, arriving at 5% based on how much savings had already been realized in 2006. That was irrelevant to the legislature. Revenue caps were not altered because you were a good steward with taxpayer funds 5 years ago. Every district saw the same cuts. The magnitude of the "tool" remaining to offset the full amount of the cut was insufficient because the balance is in the teachers' pockets. Exhibit B: Nearly $700K deficit budget.

There was an amusing letter to the editor last week (in the Gazette) listing all the money taxpayers saved in local districts, including Evansville's "savings" of about 650K dollars. Number one, the writer didn't bother to discover the exact value of the deficit, which was 672K and some change. Number 2, apparently they are unfamiliar with how fund balances work. Target values for fund balances ("savings accounts") in Wisconsin are recommended to be at or near 15% of the fund 10 budget. Five long years of conservative fiscal practices in the district took that balance from about 6-7% up to 12% on June 30 of this year. With the stroke of a pen on October 24, it was reduced back to 8.6%.

The amount of fund balance a district carries effects their bond rating, just like the amount of savings a person has determines their "reliability index" for repaying a loan. Also, just like on the personal level, this affects the resultant interest rate charged for loans. The district's bond rating was upgraded a few years ago during a re-fi of one of the loans because the financial institution saw good progress toward the target of a 15% fund balance. If folks think this is insignificant, a review of the debt repayment schedule is available on the Observer blog or even the school district website by clicking on the annual meeting packet under "board meetings." This year the district will contribute about 2.7 Million dollars toward retiring the debt on the outstanding referenda. That figure will increase every year until 2020, ending at well over 4 Million dollars to pay off the debt. Anybody with a mortgage knows how much of this has been interest up til now and how much has been principle. Interest is paid through taxes too! If you suffer delusions that that "savings" of 650K are not offset by potential losses when bond ratings for districts fall in the next few years, you do math differently than I do.

What happens next year is anybody's guess.The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the financial outlook for public / government employers will be as bleak as or worse than this year. A similar hit on the fund balance next year will decimate it by 46%. What happens if a boiler blows up? Which 10 teachers (or 6 administrators) will you lay off to realize such savings? Which programs will suffer?

The overall point here is that there is plenty of blame to go around for the budget mess in which ECSD finds itself. Writing deficit budgets for each of the last 3 years is a good place to start. This year's was the absolute worst, and to be fair, the first two years ended up being either much less a deficit or a surplus. I don't think they're going to find a spare $672K laying around somewhere in the budget, so we can stop hitching our horse to that wagon. How about a good old-fashioned idea like living within your means? I have heard at least 3 different board members express this desire. I realize many individuals suffer from the inability to live within the confines of their income. The last year I sat on the board was the first year the administration brought forward a deficit budget. I voted against it because it irritated me that anybody would plan to spend more than they anticipated they would make. If it turned out that they saved that amount, you get it the next year. But by God, don't start out planning to spend in excess of your income. Maybe next year, this old-school idea can come to fruition.

This and That

I'm taking an informal poll regarding the Evansville school district's strategic planning process. How many of you took part in the process? If you DID take part in the process, what were your impressions?

If you did NOT take part, why didn't you? What could the district have done to make the process more accessible to you?

I hope to include results in a post at a later date. Stay tuned!

Thanks for your help!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Despite Flat Edgerton Enrollment after 4K Program, Milton Forges Ahead

Click on the post to see the article in the Gazette a few weeks ago covering Milton's entry into the 4K arena to boost their dwindling enrollment. Oddly enough, they used the Edgerton 4K enrollment data as an argument FOR going forward. Edgerton numbers uniquely match Evansville in enrollment, so this seemed like a perfect place to begin to investigate recent remarks by board member Eric Busse that 4K enrollment always increases from the initial enrollment value. Because, yes. you guessed it, it was on the agenda to address at the September Board meeting as a follow up to the Spring meetings addressing it. Nobody in their right mind expected anything to actually result from this, except a perfunctory, "No, we are currently about 700 thousand dollars in the red and cannot afford to introduce 4K at this time." But dutiful board members noted that they want a full analysis for 4K, including start-up costs and expected time to recoup the investment. That's when Mr. Busse chimed in about enrollment due to 4K.

Well, apparently he didn't have access to the Edgerton data. If you look at the charts and correct for early childhood enrollment figures, Edgerton enrollment due to 4K was 101, 106, 65, 98, 96 and 115 from 2006 to 2011. The AVERAGE value (96.5) does not exceed the initial value. More importantly, the rate of enrollment loss has remained relatively consistent comparing 01-05 (-96) with 06-11 (-87). They're still bleeding enrollment, just started at a higher value. This still translates to loss in funding. Until the reasons for the enrollment loss are fully explored, and remedied where possible, all the 4K, 3K and every other scheme to increase enrollment will never, ever solve the problem. This is the message to take from Edgerton, not implementing some hairbrained scheme that doesn't do what it is touted to do.

Solving the problem using superficial means is simply easier. They don't have to mix with the great masses and admit that maybe, just maybe, we need to do a better job of attracting and keeping students in our district. No more excuses for not knowing the reason why EVERY SINGLE KID left the district. It shouldn't be acceptable to simply gather anecdotal evidence. The school board just financed the district's inability to live within their means to the tune of nearly 700K out of the fund balance. At the very least, they deserve to know why 24 more kids enrolled out than in. Then they can formulate a plan to minimize this number. That's my rant for the day.

Budget discussions are in my Review articles. I was the only journalist present at the annual meeting and the meetings leading up to the annual meeting. If you read conflicting data from other sources regarding the budget, call me or drop me a line. I will try to help you understand. I am pretty conversant with the district budget.


Monday, August 29, 2011

School Board Meets August 30 at 7:40 AM for Contract Approvals

Click on the post to view the agenda for a meeting scheduled at 7:40 AM on Tuesday morning August 30. They will be approving a 50% parental leave contract for Marissa Hansen (high school guidance counselor) and a football coaching stipend at the middle school. The meeting is scheduled at this ungodly hour because the staff breakfast will be that morning and apparently a quorum of the school board plans to be present as well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

School Board Meets August 22nd to review progress on budget process

Well for heaven's sake, I forgot to type anything about the title. Summer brain, I guess. Anyway, click on the post to view the agenda for Monday night's meeting. They will summarize the progress made thus far on the business manager transition and budget preparations as well as the audit results, I suspect. Some board members will be exhausted from attending a CESA 3 presentation on how to deal with budgets from 1-4 pm the same day, so I should cut them some slack if they have the glazed look from staring at school budgets for too long, which I know so well.

Join us for a rollicking good time. Superintendent Carvin said if the preliminary budget isn't available by then, then there will be another meeting August 29 (freshman orientation day) to present it. Great. Wonderful. The main reason I have attended all of these summer cluster f@#$s is because I was looking for a budget. Now I may not be able to attend because of family commitments. Probably a bit unreasonable of me to expect a resolved budget for 10-11 and a projected budget for 11-12 under the sad circumstances, but I have this view of the world that conflicts with the Peter Principle which contends that everybody is promoted to his or her level of incompetence. In my philosophy, I have faith that co-workers can take over for somebody in their absence and nobody is indispensable. They did allow at the last meeting that they seemed to be holding their own so far in the process, which is good, I think. Won't know until I see the numbers. Looking forward to that day when they are available for public perusal.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Board Meeting August 15 at 6:30pm

Click on the post for the agenda and packet for tomorrow's board meeting. Sorry for the late notice. I've been communing with the loons in Northern Minnesota for the last 10 days and didn't have any wifi available. There's a lot of interesting things on the agenda, including the summary of WKCE data at JCMC Middle School. That should be interesting.

They are pushing along with the senior project proposal with another pilot project with tweaks from last year. No news on the grading committee front.

I have a lot of irons in the fire now, but my memory of the loons will buoy me up to stay focused on the tasks at hand!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

School Board Meeting July 25th at 6:30 PM

Click on the post to view the agenda for Monday's ECSD Board Meeting. The Board and Administrators have interviewed for the business manager position and will present the preferred candidate for board approval.

Additional topics include review of the updated budget projection and several board development topics. I will be able to attend this meeting and the August regular meeting as well. Apparently the regularly scheduled August 8th meeting will be changed to August 15, after I come back from the cabin. This is a good thing, since the budget is still in some nebulous limbo of undefined proportions and I'd like to see what is proposed.

It's not going to be a good year for school budgets and some harsh choices will have to be made. Board membership is particularly difficult wherever one lives these days. Somehow the powers that be have successfully demonized the public schools while painting other areas of the economic sector in an unrealistically glowing light. If any of these so-called politicians would attend any one year's worth of ECSD school board meetings to see what kind of catch-22 choices have to be made at every meeting, month after month, maybe they would have the knowledge of what the hell it is they are doing to education. Meanwhile, they support expanding school choice, the institutions of which have never before last fall been required to adhere to the NCLB achievement stipulations. REALLY? You DON'T know how they are performing as compared to the evil public sector, but your recommend expanding the multimillion dollar program? You guys are ignorant. And that's the nice way to put it.

In other news, there is a new principal at TRIS. I hope to have an article about her in the next few weeks under my Evansville Review byline. Maybe at the same time as I report on the new business manager next week. Stay tuned to the same byline for breaking news on the budget and any plans for cuts to the 11-12 budget.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Agenda for Board Meeting 7-14-11

Click on the post to see the agenda for tomorrow night's board meeting. They will interview a candidate for TRIS principal and discuss approval in closed session followed by discussion of the criteria for business manager. I have a swim meet to attend and won't be there for this meeting.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

No Board Meeting on Monday July 11, Special Meetings Scheduled, Agendas to Follow.

Please note that the regular business board meeting will not be held this Monday. The standing dates are the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Instead, there will be a special meeting on Thursday the 14th, the agenda of which is not yet available. I believe they will be finalizing the job description for the District Business Manager and perhaps interviewing a candidate. Stay tuned for the posted agenda here. There is another meeting on July 18th regarding strategic planning and perhaps another interview. The regular meetings of the whole will be on July 25 at 6:30 PM, normal schedule.

School District gets new website!

Click on the link to see the new ECSD website! It's going to take some getting used to, but should be easier to maintain, according to the district.

Friday, July 1, 2011

July School Board Meetings to be At different Times!

Just a heads up on July School Board Meetings. Things will be different than usual, as they often are in the summer. I was always surprised at how much work gets done in the summer at a public school. Anyway, they have to hire three administrators this summer: District Business Manager (first priority), Student Services director and a Principal at TRIS. Things were flying fast and furious at the end of the last meeting, but here's the gist of what I heard. July 11 Business Meeting agenda deferred to August 8 at 6:30 PM. There will be a meeting July 14 at 6:30 PM to discuss qualifications necessary for the Business Manager position and interview a candidate. Monday July 18th at 6:30 there will be a strategic planning meeting, Monday July 25 at 6:30 is the committee meetings of the whole with time set aside for interviewing another candidate for the Business Manager. The meeting minutes will be approved at one of these on a consent agenda since by law they must be done at the next meeting.

Finally, if you're really trying to fill in your "school board" calendar for the year, note that the Annual Meeting date has been changed from September 26th to October 24th at 7pm. This is the meeting I pester and cajole all of you residents of the Evansville Community School District to attend and let your voices be heard. Don't like the fact that the school raised taxes last year by 8%? Did you go and complain? I was at that meeting. I think not. Every district resident has a vote at the Annual Meeting, specifically when setting the levy. I will acknowledge that it is a non-binding vote (the board usually considers it an advisement). The final vote to set the levy only includes the board and must take place before October 29 or something like that. Consider yourselves adequately notified that this meeting is on the radar. I will attempt to keep current with the budget, but expect some glitches as a new person is trained in.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Lied: I Really DO Care

After reading a Wisconsin State Journal article the first week of June regarding which schools failed to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), I posted here that I was pretty surprised to see that JC McKenna wasn't on the list. Readers may remember that achieving AYP is required to meet the federal No Child Left Behind law (NCLB). I ranted about liars and statistics and concluded that by 2014 we'll all still be just as stupid as we were in 2001 before the act was implemented. I still believe that but qualify that with a statement that there is plenty of documentation now to tell us the magnitude to which we are ignorant. Unfortunately, that only applies if one believes that the WSAS, an assessment system comprised of the WKCE and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with disabilities, accurately measures achievement. I don't have any confidence in the assessment, so my qualification is moot.

If any of you follow my byline in the Review, you will have seen my article regarding Superintendent Carvin's happy announcement on June 13th that all buildings in the district achieved AYP. There was no mention in her announcement that JC McKenna achieved it only through the Confidence Interval qualification. When I wrote my first post on June 8, I was well aware of the statistical qualification of Confidence Intervals (CI). What I wasn't aware of was what level of CI is imposed on the data nor was I privy to the data set on which the CI was calculated. In fact, the DPI seems to be the only ones who have this data set, likely due to concerns about the general population misusing the data.

CI calculations are derived on a basis of the standard deviation (sigma) of a data set, assigning the 75th percent confidence level at +/- one sigma, 95% at +/- two sigma and 99% at +/- three sigma. Use of CI assumes data is normally distributed in a bell curve. Typical experimental evaluations are considered robust at the 95th percent confidence level. The lack of access to the data set used makes it impossible for me to assess the statistical treatment of this data. I am very skeptical that these data are normally distributed, however. Also suspect, in my opinion, is the use of the 99th percent confidence level, which results in a confidence interval through which one could drive a very large truck.

Since I did all of the calculations back in April to determine if any Evansville schools were in danger of failing to meet AYP, I knew JC McKenna missed the 2010-11 reading goal for students with disabilities by more than ten percent. What I didn't expect was Confidence Intervals that exceeded ten percent, but there it was. The online reports issued by the DPI do not have qualifiers on the data. I emailed the DPI to ask what the heck was going on with reports that did not have any qualifiers on them. I was told that the upper limit on the confidence interval around this data statistically predicted that JC McKenna's 70.33% reading proficiency index for students with disabilities has an upper limit of 82.9%, well over the 80.5% required target. Furthermore, the online reports "are space limited" and don't include qualifiers. That is so bogus. The report to school say Yes-CI. Are you telling me that the online reports don't have space for three more characters? They just don't want to field questions from people who have enough brains to figure out what the heck they are doing. Talk about baffling them all with bull%^&.

I am the first person to acknowledge that small populations and wide distributions of ability levels naturally lead to large variability in data. This knowledge is accompanied by the added awareness that these statistical techniques may very well be misused. Lack of access to the raw data from which the calculations are derived makes it impossible to really know. I'm sure that's exactly how the DPI wants it to be.

If the standard 95th percent confidence level had been assigned to the go/no go decision, JC McKenna would have failed to meet AYP. Furthermore, and of greater concern, is that JC McKenna data indicated a significant increase in the number of students in the same subgroup performing at basic and minimum in reading, a step backwards and an indicator of trouble brewing. Combine this with the 10.5% increase in math goal and 6.5% increase in reading goal next year and Evansville will likely see our own school included on the "failed to meet AYP" list for 2011-12. I know you're sick of hearing me predict doom and gloom and then being wrong. If this years trends are repeated next year, and NCLB is not modified, that will be the result.

They will be in a lot of good company to be sure. If next year's increase in goals causes the nearly 100% increase in the number of schools failing AYP that was seen this year, over 400 schools will fail to meet AYP. That rate is nearly one for every district in Wisconsin. I'm not trying to pick on Evansville in general or JC McKenna in particular. School districts are not a fault for the data assessment, but must be wary of accepting the blanket statements from the data manipulators. However, it is not my observation that there is sufficient skepticism on the part of the district administration to aggressively pursue solutions proactively before sanctions are implemented.

The dolts in the federal government need to see that what they have in NCLB is more unfunded mandates that schools simply can't afford to maintain anymore. For the pittance in aid received by our district for this program and others for that matter, it seems time to reevaluate participation in such mandates.

School Board Meetings of the Whole Monday June 27 at 6:30 pm

Click on the post to see the agenda for Monday night's School Board Meeting. Please note that the first item on the agenda is an Executive session. If you're a little late, you won't miss anything except the board excusing itself to discuss some personnel issue, as prescribed by law.

However, once underway, this meeting promises to provide a lot of information to those interested in student achievement, projected budget, costs of co-curricular programming, projected enrollment and much much more. Stay tuned here or my byline in the Review for pertinent updates.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When will the activities die down?

A few days ago, I posted about how I looked forward to the quieter schedule of summer. I'm still waiting a week and a half later. The kids have been going every which way at the same or greater pace since the last day of school. ACT, Graduation ceremony concert, Grad parties for friends, projects for the library, scout merit badge clinics, soccer tournaments, swim team practice, the list seems endless. Add to that the umpteen birthdays in June and our own anniversary yesterday (22!) and the head begins to spin. Tomorrow is Father's day and I hope the day is as fabulous for Bill that Mother's Day was for me. Queen for a day, that's what I was. It doesn't seem like we have had a quiet moment yet, but busy is better than bored. That's like asking for trouble. It's like they have a sixth sense for sensing what the worst idea could be and implementing it.

I'm excited to have my new laptop (thanks to Bill - my anniversary gift!) for work and blogging. Maybe I will have time to catch up on this soon. I don't have to battle the kids to get screen time anymore. I have to write an article on AYP this week, so I will blog the rest of the story on that after the article runs next week. Pray for me that my file transfers go smoothly. I already had to go with an email server I'm less than thrilled with, but I will live. More later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Sad Day

On Monday night, the board learned that Deb Olsen, district business manager, was losing her battle with cancer. The next morning I learned that she had passed on and I began to reminisce about what a kind and genuinely talented person she was. She always took time to explain budget items to board members; she often burnt the midnight oil to prepare a budget, especially at those crunch times like the end of the fiscal year and audit time. She never thought my questions were dumb or intrusive, and always, always had the patience of Job when dealing with a diverse group of people. My heart goes out to her family and I pray that this remembrance of her kind and thoughtful ways will somehow ease their hearts in this time of loss.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agenda for June 13 Evansville School Board Business Meeting

Click on the post to view the agenda for Monday's Board Meeting. It looks pretty innocuous. No packet has been made available yet, but should be on the website by tomorrow. Just a reminder that the meetings start at 6:30 P.M. now if you're interested in attending.-M

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This and that

Holy smokes, it's been a busy spring. School activities take on a life of their own in spring, and I am very relieved to see summer arrive. The Tommy Awards for the EHS spring Musical "Guys and Dolls" were such an honor for so many. Collin Rehfeldt and John Robinson won Outstanding Supporting Awards, Bob Mentele won for Outstanding Lighting, Anna Bisch and Wolly Wollinger won Honorable Mention for their Lead Roles and, not surprising to anybody involved in an EHS production, the cast won for Outstanding Musical. I went to the ceremony and saw such fabulous talent, it took my breath away. I would not be surprised at all to see some of those kids make it in show business.

Every Wednesday since May 1st has been a veritable smorgasbord of awards for excellence. This is the first Wednesday I have been home in a month. My daughter had to miss getting her award for excellence in English because, ironically, she was buried in homework (not English, btw).

Graduation is upon us this Saturday, right after the ACT test at EHS. Sarah will go directly from the test to performing at graduation as she sings in her last graduation (since she will be walking down that revered aisle next year). Where did my little girl go?

As we seem to have the popular 3 years between all of our kids, I once again attended Holly's 8th grade graduation, or "recognition" on Monday. Tuesday was 5th grade graduation for our baby, Mr. Will. Last time I was in this situation, I vaguely recall that both of the ceremonies were on the same day. Thank goodness they changed that. I was a bit verklempt with all of this honoring of passages going on. One will be a Senior next year, one enters high school and one enters middle school all at the same time. My babies grew up in a blink of an eye. Hello young ladies and young man. Welcome, fasten you seat belts and enjoy the ride!

There are still several years for my younger kids to be in public school. I hope the big changes coming in education will be positive for them but I'm not going to hold my breath. The challenges will be myriad unless something is done about NCLB. Did you see this morning's Wisconsin State Journal article about Madison facing sanctions? Six districts in the state failed to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP). 228 individual schools failed to meet AYP as defined in the law. Nearly double the 140 that failed last year. I predicted this from the get go. It does not make me feel good that my prediction came to pass. But one test score in time comparing one 4th grade class to the one the year before does not tell you how much those kids learned.

On the upside, completely against calculations, JC McKenna met AYP. With the WKCE scores they posted, this was simply not feasible using the straight numbers provided on the WINSS system. Which begs the question as to what the heck kind of magic schools do with the numbers to "meet" AYP. There is supposed to be some 2% of students that can be excluded from "counting," yet an alternate assessment is given in the calculations for various demographics. As with the infamous "Safe Harbor" calculation, there is another factor of which I am unaware and frankly, don't even care about anymore. It seems that in their fury about the ^&&)* NCLB, the bean counters for schools have developed any number of shell games to show "progress." Meanwhile, education goes to hell in a hand basket trying to meet all these stupid testing protocols. So, when all those schools show 100% proficient or advanced students in 2014, just remember some wizadry is involved and we're just as stupid as we were in 2001. Probably more so. But we have numbers to debunk it, so we must be brilliant. Another case of dangerous use of statistics. Blinking bureaucrats.

My rant is done. I am glad JC McKenna met AYP. I fear it is on a house of cards and when the goals increase by 9 and 12.5% again next year, it will all come tumbling down. But I am confident that some bean counter will come up with a formula that will prove all is well. Kudos to Evansville and once again, I must apologize for my premature predictions of AYP failure. Ah, well, for that you must turn in your calculator, missy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

GPA for Co-Curricular Participations is 1.5 not 1.75! Yikes!

I edited my last post. The GPA for co-curricular participation is 1.5, not 1.75. Apparently, I can't wrap my mind around such a low standard and automatically raised it. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Evansville School Board Business Meeting May 9 at 6:30 p.m.

Click on the post to view the agenda for the May 9th school board meeting in the board and training center. NOTE THE CHANGE IN START TIME TO 6:30 p.m.!!! I might even have time to cook and eat supper before the meetings now. The change in meeting time was one of many tweaks the board introduced to the new face of the school board at their re org. meeting on May 2. See my byline in the Review for the new slate of officers and other changes that may interest you.

Discussion items of note to the general public include school calendars for the next two years and the annual meeting date at which the entire public may vote on the mill rate. Something called a "reality check presentation" will be made, which seems intriguing.

Business that is planned is voting on the co-curricular contracts (contracts for coaches, club advisers, etc.), high school low enrollment courses, approval of 2012 and 2013 graduation dates and times and, my personal favorite and likely a contributing factor to my demise on the school board, is approval of the High School and Middle School handbooks. I fought them tooth and nail on those handbooks repeatedly and without quarter over two items. The first is that their wording in the HS handbook does not match policy on absences AND policy is more stringent than statute. The second item we continuously fought over and over which I still take issue is the completely unacceptably low GPA required at EHS for co-curricular participation. 1.50. A whopping 1.50 GPA. Between a C- and a D+ AVERAGE. People! If that's the average, half of the grades are BELOW that. That's sort of the working definition of an average. But do NOT try and explain that to certain hard heads in the school district. I am waiting for the result of the grading committee because the only sensible thing ever uttered in this debate was by Mr. Everson: "Until there is a consistent standard by which students are graded, GPA is meaningless anyway." Amen brother.

The two bogus excuses were : "Our block schedule forces this low average. Three Cs and an F calculates out to a 1.50 GPA." Really? Thanks buddy, I don't need a primer on calculation of GPAs. It's sorta what I do. Here's an idea. If they insist on flunking a class, maybe they need to get a B in something else to off set the F. Hmmm!!!!!

Then there's "you know, not every kid is an Einstein (with the pointedly inferred glare meaning "like yours"), and some of them only remain engaged in school and graduate because of their connection through co-curriculars." What a sad statement on your own inadequacies in the classroom. Maybe you should take all that co-curricular contract money (nearly $100,000 the last time I signed the contracts 2 years ago) and take classes on how to teach at every level, not just to the middle, and every student would finally get the challenge they need and deserve. I realize that co-curriculars are very meaningful to many kids, but most of them are not going to make a living through them. The kids still need to learn math and grammar and how to write a cogent sentence before anyone will hire them.

Even worse than the HS policy is the MS policy. There is no standard at all. Once the kid gets an F, he must go on probation until the grade is improved. She could have 6 D-'s and a D and still play ball or go to solo and ensemble. There's a great message for our youth. Screw around in school and you can still play (fill in the blank). There may be one or two kids who need a lot of leeway due to learning disabilities. But the vast majority of kids will simply play you at this age. I'm going through my second kid at the middle school and this age group is full of master manipulators combined with the attractive trait of self-absorption. Not pretty sometimes and more than happy to let you molly-coddle them. Ugh. The monster of indignation in me is unleashed every time I consider the ridiculously low standard to which our district holds students to participate in EXTRA curricular activities. That combined with grade inflation makes it pretty dang hard to swallow. So I bide my time. Waiting for the results of the grading committee and wondering if the board has lost their collective mind in allowing this to continue...

Monday, May 2, 2011

School Board Seats New Officers Tonight at 6pm

Click on the post to see the agenda for tonight's school board meeting at 6pm in the board and training center. It's in direct competition with the wildly popular plan commission meeting rescheduled at the high school PAC to hold all the interested citizens that showed up last month. Look for my article in the Review for the new slate of officers for the next year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

School Board Committee Meetings of the Whole April 25 at 6 p.m.

Click on the post to see the agenda for Monday's meeting of the committees of the whole. There are no surprise items on the agenda, which typically follows a set listing every month. Usually, there is a reorganization meeting held on or near April 25th every year, known affectionately as the "reorg. meeting." This is the meeting at which the newly elected school board elects officers, takes on committee assignments and generally establishes the new pecking order. John Rasmussen can't be here Monday due to travel plans he's had for a very long time, so the Board decided to put off the reorg. meeting until May 2 at 6 p.m. so the newest board member could attend.

It's time for a reevaluation of the Human Growth and Development curriculum again. Check out the following link for details regarding this meeting on May 4 from 8am - 3 pm.


Finally, there will be the regular Board Business Meeting on May 9 at 6 p.m. Much is happening in the district this time of year. The general mayhem surrounding the unsettled nature of the state budget scenario has caused a lot of rumor and innuendo to fly around town. Much of it probably has a kernel of truth, but resist the urge to believe everything. If you hear that "they aren't going to replace any retiring/quitting teachers," then more likely the whole story is "they aren't going to interview for such and so position until after the official budget is presented from the state." Which means after July 1st. Because that's when the state promised to have a solid budget proposal. Two of the three years I was on the board, the state didn't come through with final numbers until October. Imagine if you will the havoc that plays on the budget setting needs of each and every district. How can you hire people in August if you don't know whether or not funds are available for it? It's a very difficult situation. So remember to take a deep breath and hope for the best. They have only had to lay off teachers due to decline in enrollment for next year. That may not be the case for 12-13, which is shaping up to be even worse.

Why, you say, are we suddenly suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? It's not, as some would be happy to report, entirely the fault of Gov. Walker. His "budget repair" bill is a dominant player here, but the chickens are coming home to roost, ala the stimulus funds accepted two years ago. What did they hire the temporary special ed position at TRIS with? Stimulus funds. Where did all the capital funds come from for a new handicapped access van and new PT equipment come from? Stimulus funds. All in all, these funds inflated the budget to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars over two years. Add that to a loss of $550 per kid from the state (about a million) and a loss in enrollment of about 40 kids over the last 3 years (about a quarter of a million) and a perfect storm of budget misery strikes. Had it not been for the diligent efforts of the board to build up the fund 10 balance and toe the line on certain expenditures, things would be a lot worse than they are, which is bad enough. So, keep your wits about you and remain calm. Hard as it may be, trust the board and the administrators to be sensible in these dark days. And if all else fails, come to a board meeting!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The New Face of Education?

There has been a lot in the news about a new paradigm for education. The fundamental idea is sharing resources. The best providers in a given area, say AP Biology, offers AP Bio to all schools in that area. This is a novel concept to which current educational structure is not amenable due to contractual restrictions. Apparently any time a kid in district A takes a class offered in District B that is not currently available in District A, there must be a teacher in District A assigned to "oversee" the District B class progress, despite the fact that the teacher in District B is fully licenced and qualified to teach the class. This ups the resources required in District A to take advantage of the class. Until now, the unions have effectively squelched this idea, thereby reducing the quality of our childrens' educations, especially in rural areas where the variety and frequency of offerings is sorely limited. And this is only one example in which the sharing of resources is discouraged. Having a kid in AP level courses, I know how challenging it is to take advantage of these classes, which are on a two year rotating basis at best in our district. Imagine if you will, trying to map out your kid's entire high school curriculum in 8th grade. That is what is necessary to make sure they get the classes they need at this point in our district. Now imagine a world where AP everything is offered every year. Maybe not in the hallowed halls of EHS, but available to the EHS students EVERY YEAR. The possibilities become practically unlimited. And think of the money you parents would save on the blinking tuition fees if your kid entered his or her first year of college as a second semester freshman. That's what I'm talkin' about. Putting the needs and educational excellence of our children first. Share resources. Share teachers. Share excellence. Our kids deserve it. Find a way to make it so. (apologies to Capt. Picard).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Special Board meeting Monday April 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Click on the post to see the packet regarding the special board meeting to address selling one of the building trades homes, I believe. It will take place immediately before the regularly scheduled monthly board meeting in the District Board and Training Center. The following link will take you to the agenda for the regular board meeting. It all starts at 5:30pm on Monday April 11, 2011.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Please Note: Official DPI AYP Designation Has Not Been Assigned

Please be aware that my conclusions regarding district and building AYP status has not been confirmed by official DPI notification. However, as much as the DPI would like to make it seem like the layperson is incapable of understanding how to calculate AYP, anybody with a search engine, a calculator and a pure love for crunching numbers is more than qualified to do the math. I fall in this category.

I qualified the areas where I may be a bit shaky, which is in regard to the second level Safe Harbor AYP definition and the width of the typical Confidence Intervals for our district. Other than that, I completely understand how to arrive at AYP conclusions. One can even access computational websites online entitled "Adequate Yearly Progress Calculator" if you don't trust your own ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide. I got sick of punching numbers and wrote a mini-program in excel to do the SH2 calculations.

The district has a week or so to verify and qualify any data they are legally able to challenge before the DPI sends out the AYP notifications, at which point the DPI designation becomes official. I don't believe that disqualification of a few students at the Middle School will make any difference in their Reading AYP status. (I think I recall that only 2% of disabled students district wide may be disqualified from consideration in the AYP status calculations. I could be wrong on the exact value, but I know there is a very strict limitation here).

Some may criticize me for publicizing this before the DPI calls it official. I say, why wait when you know how to do the calculations? The city of Janesville was proud and trumpeted their news. The democrats were very anxious to show just how impotent the Milwaukee Voucher program results were and posted that data.

I have always been a take-charge kinda person. I propose that the DISTRICT should begin the process of determining the problems and proposing a solution. Scrutinize the data and listen carefully to what it tells you. Don't wait for the suits at the DPI to tell you that there is a problem. Find it, own it and solve it in a proactive way. I reiterate that my purpose in writing the AYP post was to illustrate the complete idiocy of the NCLB Act and how a committed district is negatively effected in many ways by the numerous intangible consequences of unfunded, scientifically invalid federal mandates.

Sunday, April 3, 2011



    Oh, did I mention to VOTE on Tuesday? No matter what your politics, you have a civic responsibility to make your voice heard. Don't like the Supreme Court Justice who can't keep his misogynist views to himself? Get out there and vote for his opponent. Is experience more important to you? Let your voice be heard on Tuesday or you lose all credibility when making noise at a later date. One of the great strengths of our nation is the unalienable right AND responsibility of every citizen to vote. Exercise it. My rant is done.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Adequate Yearly Progress in Reading May Elude JC McKenna Disabled Students

  • The Intangible Costs of Relentlessly Pursuing NCLB Achievement Goals

It's been an interesting few days since I woke to the Tuesday morning news of the Janesville Public School District trumpeting victory with their WKCE improvement data on page one of the Gazette. I quickly shot off emails to the principals in the district asking for Evansville data. I got one response that the data were "embargoed until April 7 or something like that." Okay...The skeptic/reporter /data hound in me went on high alert. On a whim, I looked for Evansville's 2010 WKCE data on the DPI website in their WINSS system. Eh voila, there they were. To be fair to my source, they expressed astonishment at the DPI asking that the data be embargoed yet publishing it on their website.

If you click on the post, you will be directed to the website where any achievement data you please can be accessed. Enter Evansville in the District and hit enter. The data can be viewed a number of ways. Please be aware that observation of the data, while informative, is not in itself sufficient to draw any conclusions regarding Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Every year, I forget the definition of AYP and have to review the method by which it is calculated. I forgot to do this last year and got into trouble. Like many government initiatives, it really is more complicated than it needs to be.

There are four components to achieving AYP. 1) Reading Achievement must meet annual yearly objective; 2) Math achievement must meet the annual yearly objective; 3) 95% or more students must participate in achievement testing. 4) Graduation rate and attendance rate of 85% or more or a 2% increase over the previous year. These criteria must be met not only on the district level and the school level, but also for any student subgroup for which there is a population of over 40 students (such as disabled or economically disadvantaged).

When we all read in the news about WKCE achievement as compared to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) targets, the data are usually presented as "the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced." That simple sum is not how the "proficiency index" is calculated. Districts receive results from WKCE in four categories: Minimum, Basic, Proficient and Advanced. At the beginning of this NCLB journey, the target values for Wisconsin Public School Districts to achieve in Reading and Math were established as "Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO) for proficiency index." This year those values are 80.5% for Reading and 68.5% for Math. To ascertain whether or not any district or school or subgroup has achieved AYP, the reader must determine the Proficiency Index (PI) by adding up the percentage of students scoring Proficient and the percentage of students scoring Advanced and adding to that half the percentage value of students scoring Basic on the WKCE. To illustrate, if a certain school had 20% Basic, 35% Proficient and 25% Advanced achievement on Math, the PI would be 35+25+0.5(20), or 70%. This calculation indicates that a school with these Math scores meets the minimum target value of 68.5%.

Since I began doing all of these calculations and trying to post this data, I have had technical difficulties. I will spare you the gory details and cut to the chase, to which I hear a collective sigh of relief. I really do love playing with this data, but conclude that it's pretty boring to a good chunk of the population. I am going to qualify my data with the remark that I may or may not completely understand the final step in designation of AYP status. Here's a summary of what I know:

  • Calculate the Proficiency Index values for Math Achievement (MA) and Reading Achievement (RA) for each school and for each subgroup for which 40 or more students are present.

  • Determine if the MA and RA values are at or above the AMOs or fall within statistically measured confidence intervals. If yes, AYP is achieved.

  • If no, calculate a Safe Harbor calculation comparing Basic plus Minimum achievement for the present year with the immediately past year (SH1).

  • If SH1 shows that Basic plus Minimum performance achievement is reduced by 10% or more, AYP has been achieved.

  • If AYP is still elusive, recalculate the Safe Harbor designation by comparing the percentage of Basic plus Minimum achievement for the current year with an average of the Basic plus Minimum achievement for the two prior years (SH2). If SH2 shows a decrease of 10% or more in the Basic plus Minimum achievement categories, AYP has been achieved.

  • If the proficiency index, SH1 and SH2 all fail to meet AYP, AYP is not met.

There are two parts I am unclear on. The first is the SH2 calculation because I only found it once in the literature and can't find it again. The second is what the statistical Confidence intervals are for our district. I will summarize the steps and the AYP status at each step for the district.

Due to statistical limitations, I only ran the data on a school wide basis for TRIS, JC McKenna and EHS. I was concerned with borderline achievement levels last year for the Disabled and Economically Disadvantaged students, so I focused on those areas. The target values this year are much higher than last and it was reasonable to check this data first.

When I calculated the proficiency index for these groups at each school, the achievement in reading and math for economically disadvantaged students all met AYP outright. The straight proficiency calculation using the reading and math achievement of the disabled population failed to meet the strict comparison for both subjects in all three schools for this group of students across the board in both subjects. The Math result at JC McKenna was very close, however, and will meet AYP with the Confidence Interval, I'm sure. Safe Harbor 1 calculations bring EHS into compliance and SH2 calculations bring TRIS into compliance. Even after SH2 calculations JC McKenna reading scores for disabled students fail to meet AYP.

What does this all mean in these trying times? The first observation to be made is that overcoming failure to meet AYP now becomes extremely challenging as each district faces a 6.5% increase in the Reading target and a 10.5% increase in the Math target annually until 2014, when POOF everyone will magically become proficient in Reading and Math. HAH! Borderline performance this year bodes ill for future success. Part of me screams that the NCLB Act is so mind numbingly insane while the scientific part of me acknowledges that data can be powerful. Then I get ticked off at the Wisconsin DPI for making it so damned easy to meet AYP early on and lulling districts into a false sense of security.

There are real issues with the integrity of the WKCE and its ability to measure anything resembling proficiency to begin with. I attended a seminar at the School Board Convention in 2008 at which one of the co-creators of the WKCE stated that the original test that was developed using teacher experts to designate what constitutes the knowledge level of each achievement category had to be scrapped because so few students could achieve proficient or advanced on the test. It is a watered down version of what students are really expected to learn at each grade level.

There are statistical challenges faced by smaller districts like Evansville. Each class runs 130-150 kids and fluctuations in standardized test results are much wider. Each class has its own character that can sometimes be inferred by test results. Comparing the data for this year's fourth grade class with last year's fourth grade class is meaningless in terms of helping teachers become more effective or enabling students to learn more. But that's exactly what the NCLB data crunching calls for. And yet, the fundamental question of, "are students progressing?" is not addressed. Like so many educational initiatives, this enormous program was thrown into action with no adequate baseline and a very nebulous goal: To make every kid in America proficient by 2014. In what, pray tell? Taking standardized tests? By whose definition of proficient? I'm sure my definition of proficient differs from yours, just like Florida's is different from Wisconsin's. Without adding resources for this, the latest in a long line of unfunded federal mandates, it is guaranteed to fail.

Aside from the obvious costs incurred by districts, states and feds to administer the test, evaluate results and implement changes to improve deficiencies, there are countless intangible consequences of the NCLB Act. Time wasted in class preparing for and then taking the tests takes away from valuable learning time. All to take an impotent test like the WKCE that all the players know is ineffective. Which they try to mitigate by administering a useful test like the MAP test, thereby tripling the work since the MAP is given twice a year. They get individual data and aggregate data from this, which shows progress within a group, not in comparison to another group. But it is not the "authorized testing method," so it can't be used instead of WKCE. There is a potential problem of teaching to the test instead of what they should know or are interested in. There isn't any time to explore a subject in more depth if the class wants because they must push on to the next topic. That is NOT education. It is rote memorization that doesn't teach anybody anything.

I noticed one of those hard to pin down consequences of NCLB last year as I reviewed WKCE data. I sensed a data trend that suggested gains in achievement for groups with borderline results were accompanied by losses in achievement in the general student population. To get a handle on how to measure this phenomena, I postulated that a simple sum of the percent proficient plus percent advanced achievement (%P+A) would be an easy way to start. Subtracting this value for 2009 from its counterpart for 2010 would measure the change in achievement level for each of the four student groups: Economically Disadvantaged, Not Economically Disadvantaged, Disabled, Not Disabled. A positive result wold indicate increased achievement and a negative result would indicate loss of achievement. This was done for each of the five academic categories tested (Reading, Math, Language, Science and Social Studies). I used the three subjects tested only at grades 4,8 and 10 as a sort of "canary in the coal mine." If trouble showed up there while trying to strong-arm the reading and math scores into submission, it could be a sign that my concerns are well founded.

EHS showed universal improvements for all students in all 20 measurements using the "Hammann Quick and Dirty Evaluation of Student Achievement Index (HQDESAI)." This is especially notable because the high school only tests one grade (10) and is not statistically in danger of losing AYP due to the low numbers of the at risk populations. Each and every one of the four groups stated above had gains; some of them were of impressive magnitude. Excellent work EHS! Kudos for the turn-around.

JC McKenna posted gains in 12/20 of these measures. Scrutiny of the areas of loss of achievement showed Not Economically Disadvantaged Students losing on 3/5 measures while Economically Disadvantaged gained across all five subjects. A similar story is seen between the Disabled and Not Disabled groups. The Not Disabled students had gains only in Reading proficiency with losses being posted in the four remaining subjects. Conversely, the Disabled student achievement showed sometimes impressive gains in exactly the subjects their Not Disabled counterparts lost ground on, while losing ground in Reading. It is a textbook case of what happens when resources are reassigned instead of added to solve a problem. All hell breaks loose where the vacuum is formed.

TRIS posted gains in 14/20 categories. Losses in proficiency at TRIS (using the HQDESAI) were more equally distributed amongst the Economic Subgroups. The Disabled Student achievement posted losses in science and social studies while the Not Disabled Student achievement showed gains in all five subjects. I don't know the details of this issue, but just on principle it concerns me because the district specifically added resources at TRIS in special education. The consistent issue at TRIS, however, is the across the board significant loss in Social Studies achievement. The district recently realigned its Social Studies curriculum to better meet state standards. Maybe it's growing pains, but I imagine this will be addressed at future teacher in-service days at TRIS. The other schools posted universally large gains in Social Studies achievement, so the realignment seems to be working at the other levels of instruction across the district.

How can we help all students achieve their best and how do we measure that achievement to guarantee that they are achieving? It is a conundrum. I know there is a big "differentiated instruction" bandwagon in the district right now. I don't think it's been effectively implemented across the district. Whatever they're doing at the High School seems to be effective, though. Maybe that model can be extended to the rest of the district to help our struggling schools regain and maintain AYP. Evansville has great teachers and outstanding students. I'm confident that these passionate educators will find a way to optimize the quality of education during these trying times.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Little Help Here!

Does anybody know why the #%^&*( Html won't format my posts? I've been working for 2 straight days to generate a post on WKCE data and am stumped on why my Html formatting won't stay with my postings. This time I entered it all throught the blog site and still have suffered html losses. Surely there is an expert who could help me (in small words as I am not a computer savvy kinda person). Look for my post on Evansville WKCE results in the next day or so. I've been in Data Heaven the last few days and can tell you I am literally bleary eyed from staring at it. The thing about these projects I interject myself into is that I'll start looking at the data one way, then that will make me think of a better, more effective way of looking at the data. And then there are the federal regulations for calculating such things as Adequate Yearly Progress and other governmentese. And none of my brainstorms ever coincides with what educators want to communicate. But it's fun for me. No, Really! I'm serious. I like doing this stuff. Numbers speak to me. Data is my friend. So, look for a few hundred of my friends on this site in the next day or so...

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Technical Problems Kicked My Butt

For reasons only computer whizzes can fathom, the html was completely screwed up in the first half of my long posting, which I made by copying and pasting all five of my articles together. I fixed most of it and it reverted to the complete blobform it started out as, and I had to do it all over again. That's why my "Meet the Candidates" post was so late. Hope you enjoyed it. I started a rant and checked myself at the beginning of the post. I may return to it some day. Vote April 5. It will be my boring mantra until election day. I am pretty passionate about voting. Ever since my college boyfriend's brother-in-law lost an election by one vote in an election I forgot to vote in, I have prioritized voting whenever I can. It also became pretty important to me after I took a course in college on the history of women in America. Learning the history of women's sufferage makes me ashamed when I'm tempted to blow off voting for whatever selfish reason I have at the time. Finally, I remember my own motto: If you don't like how things are, don't just stand there and bitch. When you're done with all the complaining, DO something about it! Voting is one way to accomplish this task. According to current wisdom, voting in the upcoming election may be a way to fell a counterstrike at Scott Walker by voting out his judge buddy. I have more research to do on this issue, but it's entirely possible that that could happen. It would be a shame if a good judge lost his job because an idiot is governor. The ads have been hot and heavy, and I have to verify a few things, but if Prosser is culpable for one particularly egregious claim against him, I will also vote to boot his butt. Oh, and if any of you computer gurus out there can tell my why the html fails on stuff I copy and paste from Word, I'd be grateful for both the reason and a solution. I probably should have borrowed my daughter's scanner and scanned the $%&*()ing things in. Ah well, live and learn.

Candidate "Forum": Summary of Meet the Candidate Articles Originally Published in The Evansville Review

Here's the promised summary of all five parts of my "Meet the Candidates" series published from February to last week.

I won't endorse one newcomer candidate over the other. I leave that to readers to decide based on what they read here. But I do endorse re-election of the incumbents, Kathi Swanson and Dennis Hatfield. There were effective, passionate and dedicated board members when I served with them on the Board and have remained so in the year since I was booted. It is critical during this time of budgetary crisis to retain people who know what the heck they are doing. Ask anyone who has held public office and they will tell you (if they are honest) that they were clueless the first year as they struggled to get their bearings. The percentage of people who feel overwhelmed by the job of board member should be kept to a minimum during these trying times.

There are only 19 years of experience among the six members of the current board who either are running for re-election or whose seat is not up for reelection. Two have one year of experience, two have three, one has five and one has six. Yes, the member with the most experience on the school board only has six years of experience. Mr. Pierick, the other "old hand" with six years of experience, chose not to run again. There are school districts in the area with boards comprised of all members with 19 or more years of experience. The turnover on the Evansville School Board is a factor in challenges they routinely face. Continuity in philosophy and having to constantly bring new members up to speed on how finance works in schools and other critical board business hampers forward motion. The act of simply writing a blinking Vision Statement endured two years and two new board members before it could be brought home. This is not to say that the voters should tolerate doofuses on the school board. They should be informed about the issues faced by the district and vote for people based on the total package they bring to the job. People who elect somebody based on one plank in the platform are shortsided and have effectively contributed to the horrid state of affairs in our country now. So read this information and use it to inform your vote. Without further lecturing, (sorry about that, it's a pet peeve of mine) here it is:

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Background Information: Part One of Five As originally published February 23 in the Evansville Review

This is the first of a five part series of articles designed to inform the voters of the Evansville Community School District about the four candidates running for three open positions on the School Board. The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Dave Ammerman, Dennis Hatfield (incumbent), John Rasmussen and Kathi Swanson (incumbent). The election will be held on Tuesday April 5, 2011. A different question will be featured each week to introduce you to the candidates and their stances regarding district concerns. Each candidate’s response is presented verbatim. Please stay tuned to this byline to learn more and inform your vote.

Kathi Swanson, Incumbent

Name: Kathi Swanson
Occupation: Professional Long-Arm Quilter Education: B.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Agency Counseling Age: 49
Family: I have a 9 year old son, Ethan.
Volunteer Service: I volunteer at TRIS weekly to read with the children and in the past have read with children at Levi Leonard Elementary. Previous Public School Affiliation: I worked for 15 years at Indiana State University in the School of Nursing recruiting, reviewing applications and High School transcripts for admission criteria, advising students on curriculum requirements and certifying students for graduation.
Previous Public Service or Elected Office: I am currently serving my 3rd year of my first term as a School Board Member.
Recreational Pursuits: I enjoy quilting, gardening and camping but more than anything, I enjoy spending time with my son doing what he enjoys doing.

John Rasmussen
My name is John Rasmussen, a 59-year-old life long resident of Evansville I retired from Evansville Water & Light in 2008 after 29 years. Before that I worked eight years at the Evansville Community School District. I graduated from The Wisconsin School of Electronics in 1971 as an Electronics Technician, followed by The Wisconsin Electric Lineman Apprenticeship Program as a Journeyman Lineman in 1985.

I have been married to Vicky (Vreeland) for 30 years and she works at IKI in Edgerton. I also have two sons, Jeremy and Chad, who are 4th generation graduates of Evansville High School.

My volunteer service consists of Blackhawk Technical Collage Electric Power Distribution Class Advisory Committee, The State of Wisconsin Electric Lineworker Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (co-chair from 2005-2008), Evansville Fire Dept. (1976-1988), I coached youth bowling for a number of years, and various committees for the United Church of Christ My Affiliations with the Evansville Community School District has consisted of Adopt a Classroom at the Middle School, The Building Leadership Team at the High School in the past. I was the Lighting Director for eight of the High School Musicals. I also have been on the Budget Committee at the High School and am currently on the District Budget Committee. I was a member of the Facilities and Vision Committee for the new High School. I am also involved in local athletics by running scoreboards and keeping scorebooks at both the Middle and High Schools, I am also an Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach. If elected this would be my first elected position.

For recreation I enjoy woodworking, garden and model railroading, baseball and reading.

Dave Ammerman
Occupation: Correctional Sergeant with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for 23 years. I work at the Oregon Correctional Center in Oregon, WI. Education: Washington High School Class of 1974, Two Rivers, WI. University of Wisconsin-Platteville Class of 1978. BA in Criminal Justice. Age: 54 Born 8/1/56
Spouse: Beth Ammerman
Spouse's Occupation: Collections Specialist for Promega Corp. in Madison, WI.
Other family members: 1 son, Ryan Ammerman, EHS Class of 2008 and currently a Junior at University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. 1 daughter, Rachel Ammerman, EHS Class of 2010 and currently a Freshman at University of Wisconsin- Whitewater.
Volunteer Service: EHS Sports Boosters, Fundraising for EHS Poms, EHS Site Committee.
Previous Public School Affiliations: None
Previous Public Service or Elected Office/ Years Served: None Recreational Pursuits: Golf, member of the Evansville Golf Association. Bowling, 2 leagues at the Evansville Bowl. Member of the Evansville Health Club.
Anything else you wish to say: We have lived in Evansville since December 18, 1992. Beth and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this July.

Dennis Hatfield, Incumbent
Name: Dennis Hatfield
Occupation: Industrial EHS Manager
Education: BS Chemistry, MS Environmental Engineering, MBA Age: over 18
Spouse: Roseanne Hatfield
Spouse's Occupation: Mathematics Teacher
Family: 4 sons - Scott and Mark at UW Madison; Adam and Brian at Evansville High School
Volunteer services: Evansville Lions Club; Town of Union Smart Growth Committee; service with a variety of community and school organizations and events.
Previous Public Service or Elected Offices: Evansville Community School District Board of Education

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Two of Five As Originally Published March 2 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates will share with us why they seek a seat on the ECSD board of education. The exact prompt follows.

You have each chosen to take on the difficult and rewarding task of running for a seat on the Evansville School Board. Please share with our readers the top two reasons you wish to serve.

John Rasmussen replied:
I decided to be a candidate for the school board because.1) I have been involved in school activities for many years and want to continue to be a part of providing a quality education to the students of the Evansville Community School District. 2) Being retired I feel I am able to devote the time needed to do a good job as a board member.

Dave Ammerman replied: The main reason is, I'm just trying to do my part as a citizen of Evansville. The school district was very good to our children and I'm just trying to step up and do my part. I have no personal agenda, it's all about the "kids" and the teachers and staff who guide them.

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied: 1. Nothing is more important to the future of our children and our democracy than a world-class educational system. The Evansville Community School District has maintained that quality through the hard work and commitment of the families and other citizens of our community, and the unwavering dedication of the District teachers and staff. I want to help ensure that the quality is maintained even in the face of the current challenging economy and the current legislative climate. 2. From a purely pragmatic perspective, (even at the risk of sounding trite), I want to help prepare our children to successfully compete in the world economic and political arena; to succeed in higher education and in the workplace; to have the educational background to land good jobs or start new enterprises and so to be reasonably financially secure; to live happy and fulfilling lives; to realize the satisfaction that comes with contributing, in their turn, to their families, their educational system, their community, and their society. Schools are one of the primary foundations for all these things, and we let the schools decline at our (and our children's) great peril.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied: When I first decided to run for the school board, it was because of my love for education and my desire to give back to my community. In examining why I chose to run again, I find that these fundamental reasons still hold true. Education has been a very important part of my life and I understand the significance of all children getting a quality education.The second reason that I chose to run for a second term is because I believe that I have some personal characteristics that are beneficial to this position. I am open-minded, willing to look at all sides of an issue, I am passionate about all children receiving the best education possible and I have the time to research issues and concerns.

Stay tuned next week when we will feature the candidates’ responses when asked to comment on how they would prioritize programs in the district that are being explored or those which have been considered for cuts during past budget crises.

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Three of Five as originally published March 9 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates were asked to comment on programs in the district that are being explored or those that have been considered for cuts during past budget crises. The specific prompt given the candidates follows: Please state your position on the following programs and the criteria that you would use to determine their priority amongst other programs given dwindling resources:

Gifted and Talented Services
AP/Accelerated Programming
Extra/Co-curricular Programming
Minimum Class size/SAGE program

Dave Ammerman replied:
Extra/Co- Curricular programming is a must to keep the students active after the classes are finished. Without an outlet for students, they have just wasted the day. It is also a great leadership tool.
AP/ Accelerated programming is a must not only for college credits but also a stepping stone to getting ready for college. It's a big jump to the college level and the students need to be ready. Studies show if a student takes 2 AP courses they will do better in college.
Gifted and talented helps not only the top students it also makes the teachers do a better job of teaching by pushing them to new levels. Minimum class size will be tested with the new budget and cannot be answered at this time.
4k is a good program to help kids get ready for the future but right now there is no money to start. It can be an option in the future.

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied:
4K: When the community considered 4K a few years ago, most citizens were not in favor. This year a sizable group of citizens has expressed a desire for a 4K program, and in response the Board approved a study committee to report later this year. The state budget situation will have a great impact on any decision, for two primary reasons. First, because of the way state support is calculated (on a 3-year rolling basis), starting a 4K program would require a large withdrawal from the District's fund balance (or cutting a commensurate amount from other programs) at a time when the fund balance is already encumbered and strained. Second, the state's proposed large cut in per-student funding, and severe limits on future revenue, would make an ongoing 4K program challenging. Until a final state budget is enacted we simply won't know whether adding a major new program like 4K is financially feasible, both initially and in the long term.
G&T Services: The District is committed to providing every student with an education that will allow that student to achieve his/her personal best, and so help that student become a successful and contributing citizen. G&T services are a key part of the spectrum of District educational services, and the District is ethically obligated to offer such services.
AP/Accelerated Programming: The rigor of the student's academic program, and especially the number and variety of AP/accelerated courses successfully completed, are among the top admissions criteria used by colleges and universities. Taking AP/accelerated courses also helps the student perform well on the ACT test, which is an another major admissions criterion. Evansville students who pursue higher education (trade school, 2 year, and 4 year) have said that experiencing AP/accelerated courses was a great help in college success, especially in the early post-high school years.
Extra/Co-curricular Programming: Co-curricular programs are an important part of the District's educational mission, and extra-curricular activities benefit students in many ways. Pending state funding decisions may have a substantial impact on the District offerings and the participation fees associated with each. We simply won't know until we have the final budget decisions. Minimum class size/SAGE Program: It's well established that moderate class sizes result in a better educational outcome. The District will strive to maintain reasonable class sizes in the face of the current budget situation. The SAGE program is a particular case, and continuation will be heavily influenced by state funding decisions. We will keep the program if we can, but this must be balanced with all the other worthy educational needs competing for the very limited funding likely to be available.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied:
I believe that we all know that pre-school or 4 year old kindergarten benefits our young children. In our district, one of the first questions we have to answer is, "Can we afford it?" The school board in its February meeting, voted to delay a 4-year-old kindergarten study committee until we know our current budget, which I personally believe is a fiscally responsible response. The administration has outlined specific objectives for the study committee and I trust the pros and cons of this issue will be thoroughly investigated at that time. Regarding gifted and talented services, AP/accelerated programming and extra/co-curricular programming, I don't believe they can be looked at independent of each other or even separate from other programming. As a school board member, it is our responsibility to provide opportunities for all students and use services that reach them where they are at that particular point in time. I have realized that it is much more complicated than prioritizing one over the other.Our SAGE program is a program that I hope we can keep. I believe that smaller class sizes for our younger children benefit them. There are unique issues at those grade levels that I feel justify the smaller class size. Having said that, with our possible budget deficit, I don't believe there should be any sacred cows. The board will need to look at all programs and make some tough decisions based on research and facts.

John Rasmussen replied:
Gifted and Talented, AP or Accelerated Programming, and the Extra/Co-curricular Programs are all important programs to different groups of students and their needs. I would not put any one above the others.

I think the core class sizes should be kept as small as possible and the non-core class sizes be kept to manageable levels. I also think the SAGE program guidelines should be met to continue the SAGE program.

I think the 4K program is a good program and would like to see it started but at this point in time I do not think the Evansville Community School District could fund it. Hoping that sometime in the future it can be funded.

Stay tuned next week as we explore budget questions with the candidates.

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Four of Five as originally published March 16 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates faced a budget question. The prompt follows.

There is a projected $3,600,000,000 budget deficit for the 2011-2013 State Budget Biennium, which follows directly on the heels of an expected $137,000,000 budget deficit for Fiscal Year ending 2011. We read each week of the competing demands placed on the school district and upon the board. Please describe what you consider to be the top two issues facing the board after the election, define the criteria you used to select these issues and explain how you would balance them with the remaining challenges facing the Board. How do you foresee the changes proposed by Governor Walker in the Budget Reduction Bill impacting your role as a School Board Member?

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied: No answer was received by press time.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied: The budget projections look bleak, however we don't know how much, if any, monies will be distributed to school districts. The first priority for me is to complete our strategic plan (which is currently being researched). This process is so important in making the kinds of decisions that this question is addressing. It provides a systematic approach to decision making and prioritizing the needs of our district. There are so many exciting initiatives going on in our district such as differentiation and curriculum mapping. We need to continue to provide the resources that keep these initiatives intact because they impact every single child in our district. At the time that I am writing this response, Governor Walker's proposed Budget Repair Bill has not been passed. Due to this fact, I don't want to comment on the specifics of the bill. I do want to comment, however, on what I witnessed in our district during the first two weeks that the bill was proposed. Community people, parents, district staff, district administration and school board members all had personal opinions and speculations about the bill, but what I saw was that everyone had one common goal - the best interest of our children in this district. This common goal was demonstrated in a number of different ways, but the goal remained the same. I am confident that regardless of what this bill ends up to be, the Evansville Community and the Evansville Community School District will work together to solve issues and do what is best for our future leaders.

John Rasmussen replied: 1) I see the budget as the biggest concern to the district. 2) Maintaining programs that will meet the needs of the students in the changing times now and in the future. These two issues seem to be the most important ones for me at this time. The criteria I used to select these two issues are with the unknowns with the State budget and the economy means the budget has an affect on all aspects of the school district. If elected I will use my common sense and the experience I have gained over the years to work with my fellow board members and the school administration to come up with an affordable budget for the taxpayers that also maintains the programs needed to provide a quality education for the students.

I do not see Governor Walker’s Budget Reduction Bill having any affect on my role as a board member as the budget decisions will still have to be made.

Dave Ammerman replied: I think the top two issues facing the board are continuing to understand the impact of the Governor's budget on the district and the impact it may have on taxpayers. It is obvious that the Governor is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of local governments and school districts and everyone, not just teachers and students, share a responsibility to continue our quality educational system in Evansville. It may require an increase in taxpayer levy, either through referendum or determining if there are any other options in the governor's budget, but the entire community must share in this sacrifice.

Next week, we finish our "Meet the Candidate" series with an opportunity for the candidates to summarize their skills and experience and indicate why the voters should "hire" them for the Evansville School Board. Stay tuned!

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Five of Five as originally published March 23 in the Evansville Review Why should we hire you?

The final installment of our series featuring the School Board Candidates gives each candidate an opportunity to make his or her case to be hired by the electorate. The question posed follows.

There are four candidates to fill three seats. Why should the voters of the district hire you? What skills and experiences will you bring to the board making you the best candidate for the position?

Kathi Swanson, incumbent,replied: Every member of the board and board candidate brings different perspectives and skills and represent different parts of our community. I have spent the last three years learning about the intricacies of the public school system and continue to learn about such important matters as the schools funding formula, tax levy credits, special education complexities, issues that are important to our community, just to name a few! All of the knowledge I have gained helps me make informed decisions. I also believe that I have the ability to look at issues from different angles, I like to get a lot of information and ask questions about issues before making a decision and my commitment to ensuring that every child gets a quality education keeps me involved in the schools and keeps me motivated to do what I can to improve our districts programs.

John Rasmussen replied: If elected to the school board of the (hired by the taxpayers of the) Evansville Community School District I will bring 1) My common sense, students first approach and 2) My experiences as a continuing education student in the school of life to the board. Also 1) I am a life long resident of Evansville and 3rd generation graduate of Evansville High School 2) I have been involved with the school system in many aspects over the years and 3) I know I can have a positive impact on the future of the school district and Evansville. I will work with my fellow board members and the school administration and staff to make the decisions that will be needed to be made to keep the high standards and affordable quality education programs the taxpayers of the Evansville Community School District have come to expect.

Dave Ammerman replied: You can look me in the eye and ask me anything. I will look you in the eye and try to give you an answer. Together we will try to figure things out. I'm just going to do the best I can with the common sense that God and my parents gave me. Vote on April 5th, it's up to you.

Dennis Hatfield, incumbent,replied: As the senior Board member, having served on the Board for the past 6 years, the last 4 as Vice-President, I bring unique Board- and District-specific knowledge and experience. I have served on the Finance Committee, and for the past 4 years I have been Chair of the Facilities and Transportation Committee. I have helped the District successfully work through many large and small financial, curriculum, personnel, policy, extra-curricular, and facility issues. I have worked for both private industry and the government, and was one of 3 principles of a successful consulting company. Serving on other community organizations; with degrees in science, engineering, and business; having lived in the north, south, and east, in major cities and in rural areas; and with extensive international experience, I feel that I can contribute valuable perspective and insight on the many challenging issues (some new, some similar to ones we've considered before) that the Board will face in the current financial and political climate. The bottom line is to contribute to the District's ongoing efforts to achieve and maintain educational excellence and so to best serve the students, the community, and the country.

This concludes the five part series introducing the four candidates vying for the three open school board positions this spring. Please vote on Tuesday April 5, 2011. Running for public office and effectively doing the work involved is a very challenging avocation that is made especially difficult during these troubled times. Each candidate is to be commended for pursuing this often thankless task. Show your support for the candidates of your choice on April 5th!