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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Collective Bargaining and ACT performance

I have read so many times in the last week that the five states without collective bargaining in the US (South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Virginia) have the lowest ACT results vs. #2 Wisconsin with collective bargaining. I have tried repeatedly to inform people as to the reality of Wisconsin only being #2 in composite ACT performance AMONGST THOSE STATES IN WHICH 50% OR MORE OF THE STUDENTS TAKE THE ACT. Additional considerations to take into account is that the top nine performing states are coastal schools, east and west, where geographically the SAT test is preferred for college entrance requirments so the percent of students in those states who take the ACT are naturally lower than 50%. In addition, eight states currently use the ACT as a graduation requirement to comply with the NCLB laws. Effectively 100% of their students take the ACT, whether they have prepared for it or not. I finally decided to do a little research on the ACT website. Click on the post to go to a site in which you can play all you want with the ACT data from 2010. I summarize what I have found here.

The five lowest performing states on the 2010 ACT composite score were, in fact (ranked from 46-50) Michigan, Tennesee, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi. Four of these five states have recently begun administering the ACT to 100% students as a graduation requirement. Florida is only state in the last 5 that does not use the ACT as a graduation requirement yet. It is absolutely expected that these states have the lowest ACT composite scores.

The 2010 ACT composite performance of the five states that are being portrayed as the bottom of the heap because of no collective bargaining follows as well as Wisconsin data. I cite the state, the percentage of students participating and the rank on the 2010 composite ACT performance. South Carolina, 52% of students, #44; North Carolina, 16% of students, #22; Georgia, 44% of students, #37;Texas, 33% of students, #33;Virginia, 22% of students, #12; Wisconsin, 69% of students, #17. A close scrutiny of this data will reveal that Virginia outperforms Wisconsin on the composite ACT performance. Sure, only 12% of their students take the ACT compared to 69% in Wisconsin. But they are certainly not at the bottom of the heap as portrayed.

Now I come to the crux of the matter. I have a burning need for everyone in this melee to speak the truth. When one cites data which you have not vetted, and propagates is as the God's honest truth when is doesn't even come close to any form of reality, it only diminishes one's cause. This is true on both sides of this arguement. My fervent wish is for both sides to come to the table and bargain in good faith using truth and compassion. Some universal truths can be agreed to. It's time to begin acting like adults and solve the problems of our state.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Please read Superintendent Carvin's letter

I received a letter from Superintendent Carvin today through the schools AlertNow electronic notification system. For those of you who aren't registered for this or without school age children, Kelly Gildner will print it in the February 23 Evansville Review. Ms. Carvin expressed concern about meeting the deadline for printing in tomorrow's edition, but I encouraged her to send it directly to Kelly as soon as she could after the meeting last night. I called Kelly right after the meeting and made sure she knew it was coming and to save space, even if it meant cutting my article. It is a very good letter and please take the time to read it if you haven't already.

How this has played out over time has been curious. More and more dirt is being flung about. But more information about what is contained in the Bill is also emerging. Important information that doesn't reflect any better on the gov than the union busting methods. I am not a big fan of the hiding democrats, but if their absence has allowed more information and discourse about this bill, amen to that. People need to inform themselves and vote accordingly.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Evansville Schools Called Off Due to Anticipated Staff Absences

Evansville's staff members have heeded the call of WEAC, according to the robocall from Superintendent Carvin this morning at 6am. I appreciate being informed, but like every parent of school aged children, I have carefully watched the school closings just in this eventuality. I knew about this at 11pm last night. But I suppose there are those who have been burying their heads in the sand or who live in a cave somewhere that are simply uninformed.

I am sad that our teachers feel marginalized by our Governor's recent edict. I am especially aggravated with the governor for failing to acknowledge the concessions offered when the union stated last week that they now (belatedly for the Reach for the Top grants) endorse merit pay that includes student achievement as a criteria and other positions they formerly vehemently opposed. Instead, on the heels of WEAC's announcement of said concessions, he volleys with "no more collective bargaining." Hmm. This indicates to me that Scott Walker is incapable of thinking on his feet. This is a poor attribute for the leader of our state.

All that being acknowledged, I am equally sad that our kids have to pay the price because our staff members seem to think that protesting 20 minutes away can't be done on their own time. Like everyone, my kids have a lot of irons in the fire right now. Solo and Ensemble demonstration for the teachers, registration, tests for placement next year, are all supposed to be taking place today and in the coming week. This serves nobody except the Unions. And by that I mean the Union organization, not it's members.

Being lumped in with a union today means that you agree with the union vociferously defending a clearly deficient member so that you will be defended in the eventuality that administration tries to railroad you in some way. Everything is so adversarial that the natural human reaction on both sides is to throw up ones hands and declare "screw it." The cost of the blinking lawyers alone to process the collective bargaining for both sides would probably fund five teachers. Now add in all the hours of staff and administration, all the paperwork required, meetings rescheduled for any number of reasons, etc. etc. etc. Add a few more teachers. Or more pay for the ones we have. Or new textbooks. Anything! Let you imagination be you guide!

I am not privy to the sanctions, if any, the district plans to levy on the staff who did not show today. The TV said, "staff should report" last night. Maybe this is a story. Maybe not.

Finally, Mr. Everson did not plan to excuse any students for the planned student walk-out yesterday. My daughter said the sit-in became effectively everyone because teachers were only required to attend class if their class was there. She was the only kid to show up for one class and the only soprano who showed up to choir yesterday. "I got to sing some solos!" If students weren't to be excused if Mr. Everson suspected no illness was present, then the same consequence should be leveled on the missing staff today. Should there be "teacher detention" for this action? What do you suppose that would look like? Would Mr. Cashore be in charge? There goes my imagination getting out of hand again.

I do not wish to make light of this action. I am disappointed to think of all the money we just paid in property taxes that pay these teachers. My expectation is that they do their job at the appointed hours and participate in civil disobedience on their own time. The demographic hit the hardest by this are the working poor with small children. This is the demographic that educators routinely use to implement what are effectively entitlement programs such as 4K, full day 5K and the like. These are the people being hit hardest by your choice to shut down our schools at the last minute. How many of them will lose the paltry job they have to stay with their small children? Or worse yet, how many of them will be forced to leave the kids at home alone to go to the only job they have? Scott Walker could care less if Evansville School staff members personally attend the rallies. But that struggling parent might have a few choice words for this action.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New 6 pm Start Time for February 21 School Board Committee Meetings of the Whole

Click on the post to view the agenda for the Monday February 21 School Board Committee Meetings of the Whole at 6:00 p.m. Please note the new start time of 6:00 p.m., which goes into effect for the first time for this meeting. There is a standing agenda for the most part, with additions based on new business as needed. Hope it's short because there is a band concert that night...

Our Heavy Handed Gov.

I've been asked to comment on Governor Walker's recent announcement that he will remove collective bargaining from contracts with the unions that represent state workers. Collective bargaining means the entire compensation package is negotiable. Retirement, insurance, salary, etc. With respect to most of the state workers, they complain about their salary being lower than average for the country yet have benefits and retirement packages that are some of the most generous in the nation. As was pointed out in a recent article I read, it is the trade-off they negotiated. Walker wants only salary to be a negotiable item, among other concessions.

The collective bargaining agreements with the unions ties the hands of school boards wishing to compensate teachers with higher salaries. There is only so much money to use for compensation. If most of it goes toward insurance and retirement benefits, there isn't anything left over for the salaries. Broaching the subject of sharing the cost of these benefits with public unions has fallen on deaf and indignant ears in the past. So it's understandable that Walker didn't expect anything to change from that status quo going forward.

However, the heavy-handed approach he has demonstrated since the day he was elected negates what he has to say. I do not disagree that public employees' days of crazy generous benefits are behind us. States cannot afford it anymore. Oddly enough, what he has to say I have been saying for four years. My husband hasn't gotten a raise in four years. Our insurance rates have risen. Our take home pay is lower now than four years ago. Why should public employees consider themselves above the fray for these economic times? I don't understand Walker's adversarial approach to the subject. "I don't have 16 months to negotiate." He could have at least sat them down, told them the realities and let them mull it over. But instead, out came dictatorial, my-way-or-the-highway Walker, like a blunderbuss. One would think that he knows enough about Wisconsin's deep roots in socialism and libertarianism to know how popular this approach would be and how it would be portrayed in the media. I wonder how many of the protesters actually know the terms he is recommending? Did they contain their indignation long enough to get to the end of the articles to see his proposal? For many, the answer is probably NO because they were so incensed at the methodology.

A move that should have made it easier for school boards, towns and cities across the state to negotiate to lower budgets has simply aggravated the masses. Teachers are taking "sick days" and Madison had to declare a "snow day" sort of day because they expected insufficient staff to teach. Everyone will be distracted from the fact that, due to a confluence of events, most districts and municipalities are projecting 10-20% budget deficits. But there it will remain.

Do the Madison teachers believe taxpayers support spending the time you're supposed to be teaching the next generation out boycotting our Governor? Do it on your own time. If you have no contract, you may be fired. Yesterday was the only public comment day. It is understandable if you took yesterday off in an attempt to have your voice heard during the public comment meeting. But even that could have been accomplished on your own time. I don't know for sure, but I imagine the meeting exceeded 3pm. There were 10,000 to 15,000 people there, for heaven sakes.

So, yes I agree something has to give. Yes I support the governor's idea to make only salary a negotiable item, with some understanding that benefits would remain, even at a lower level. You have no idea how much it pains me to agree with such a rabid Republican, so cut me some slack here. But under no circumstances do I agree with the way in which he did it. He was grandstanding and his message was lost in his method.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Anatomy of a School District Deficit

I know this is not hot off the presses, but Evansville could be in the same budget deficit boat soon, so it is relevant to review the anatomy of a 10 million dollar hole in a school district budget. Given our community is about a tenth the size of Janesville, one could extrapolate that budget holes an order of magnitude lower than Janesville could loom for the ECSD.

Click on the post to review the courses on the bubble In Janesville. Strikingly absent from consideration, as on parent stated in the article referenced in the link below, are cuts to athletics. I'm sure the rationale here is that cuts of teachers will get them to their desired end result quicker. But when a district goes for the jugular on instruction without forcing the entire district to feel some pain, some are inclined to believe that there are sacred cows that will not be considered for reduction or elimination. When more than a tenth of your budget is involved, nobody gets to be a sacred cow. Suck it up and bleed from every orifice, I say.


The link below gives the Gazettes' view of how the district got in this pickle. Stunningly absent from consideration is the analysis of how the recent addition of 4K contributed to their woes. I'm pretty sure that's because the Gazette is glaringly pro-4K. If a little district like Evansville would have to pony up over a quarter of a million dollars to implement 4K, it's probably safe to assume that it cost Janesville 2.5 to 3 million dollars up front. The "break even point" in the Evansville plan is experienced in about year 3, with an expected increase in revenue of $322,000 after expenses are considered going forward from year 4.


Since Janesville began their 4K program in 2007, this is the year they begin to "profit" from the program. Given the dictatorial style of our new governor, I am skeptical that funding for 4K will remain in the state budget and where will they be then? Probably 5 or 6 million dollars deeper in the hole. Even worse, the link below gives a tepid endorsement for 4K, from my perspective.


This excerpt from the article is why I remain unconvinced that 4K will solve all the problems laid at its doorstep.

"It's not that 4K has been proved to work, Politifact said, but Grothman claimed that research shows that it doesn't work, and that is still in dispute.

Politifact cited W. Steven Barnett of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, who wrote in 2009:

"Not only have small-scale programs in well-controlled studies demonstrated solid, long-term effects, but large-scale public programs also have been found to produce persistent impacts on children's learning and development, showing that all children benefit."

Barnett referred to an analysis of dozens of studies to back up his contention."

But where are these "dozens of studies"? Not in Milwaukee, I'm sure. They have had 4K in Milwaukee for 20 years. It hasn't done squat for them. One negative data point surely doesn't spoil the entire experiment, but the biggest district in Wisconsin has failed miserably at providing a successful 4K program. What makes the other 4K programs better? Presumably, it's all based on the same state curriculum. Presumably, they have the same goals for the program. In what way do all the proponents of universal 4K propose to do it differently so positive results can be seen? Janesville admits that there are no data to indicate the results of their 4K program either way since they don't do the testing until 3rd grade. This is a serious problem with social programs in general and educators specifically. They simply are clueless when it comes to design of experiment. They do not set clear measurable goals and designate how they will demonstrate progress. If they plan to use the results from the impotent WKCE as the proof positive that they did the right thing, I am very sorry for their school board. That was asinine. The WKCE is not an indication of competence but rather watered down evaluation tool put into place to placate the requirements of Bush's NCLB (No child left behind) legislation. Good grief, after all the years 4K has been around, there is no data from well-controlled studies that show "SHAZAM 4K is a MIRACLE! Saints be praised." That's because the data don't exist and 4K is not a do-all, end-all panacea for whatever ails education. Continuing to look for such data is a waste of time. Yes, 4K is useful for a particular section of the population. That doesn't mean that it should be a universal right of all students, just like Head Start is not a universal right, but a privilege for those who are in need. Identify the students in need and get them into a 4K program. Likely, they need 2 and 3K as well. I'm just sayin'. Concern for targeted students suffering from low self-esteem, while a worthy one, should not require universal 4K to adequately address that concern. Get creative, for God's sake.

Most of all, get realistic. While it irks me more than anybody that the illustrious UW Madison (and others I'm sure, it's just that I read an article to this effect last year about UW Madison) has PLENTY of money to hand out for athletic scholarships but not enough to provide money for all the Merit Scholars who wish to attend their school, I sadly have concluded that education is NOT a priority for our state, our country or our world. The pot of money is going to dwindle. If you want your kid to get certain services, seek them yourself. The days of the government recognizing educational needs and providing them are over. What that means to public education is any body's guess, but let the games begin.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Article Advising Prospective School Board Members

I was looking for a link to the Janesville School Board Cuts and found this awesome article giving prospective Board members a concrete plan to follow in the months leading up to the election. It is an old article from 2009, but the advice is timeless. Click on the post to see the link. I concur that research, research, research is the watchword for prospective holders of public office such as school board. I often wonder what the result of the election in which I got my butt kicked would have been had the candidate that "withdrew" from the race in midstream never threw his hat in the ring in the first place. This guy didn't realize the time suck that is public service and even though he withdrew, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot by the time he did his due diligence. His name remained on the ballot, and true to the uninformed electorate out there, he garnered some 87 votes. There's no guarantee that I would have gotten all of those votes. It still makes a person wonder what if...? So, if you are running for any office out there, this little primer has sound advice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Skill!

Well, I learned how to post a picture on the blog today. I probably already knew how, but never tried it. Now it won't be woefully bereft of variety here. Well, it might still be, but you'll have pictures to distract you now. It's good to learn new things.

I can't comment much on the board meeting yet because I had to stretch out over 2 weeks the news I will be reporting in the Review. There was a little bit of a space crunch this week. My editor prefers that I do not scoop my own articles, so we'll have to wait until they go to print before we can discuss them here if you'd like.

Janesville is really struggling with their budget decisions. Our own district is painfully aware of the precarious budget situation and the board has shown signs of being very conservative in the face of ever dwindling state aid. Stay tuned to the Review and here for any debriefing I may do after the articles are published.

The Pack is Back!

My awesome friend Mindy gave me a stadium Bundt Pan for my birthday last year. I made my first cake using it for the playoff game and posted it on Facebook. I placed only green and gold fans in that stadium, as I did for the Super Bowl Cake. I guess I was nicer to Packer Fans than the NFL was!
We had a blast watching that game. Also more food than should be legal. Most exasperating moment was when the Steelers made the 2 point conversion (REALLY? How many of those get made in an entire season boys?). Most exciting moment was when Matthews stripped the ball and forced a turnover! My husband is on cloud nine. He has stuck by the Packers for all 25 years I have known him and there have been some hard time to be a Packer Fan. I rejoice for his pure joy at being on top once again.
I want to get my husband a new gold packers mock turtleneck for Valentines Day. He said if he gets a new one that is not dilapidated he will stop wearing his even more dilapidated Bart Starr throwback jersey and begin wearing the nice new one I got for him at least 5 years ago. The holes and fabric are probably equally distributed on the beat up jersey. I can't find an XL mock turtleneck anywhere. If anybody sees one or knows where I can get on quickly, please give me a shout out!
The Pack is Back!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 7 School Board Business Meeting:Note Change in Usual Board Meeting Day!

Click on the post to view the agenda for the February 7 Regular School Board Meeting at 5:30 in the District Board and Training Room. Those of you who follow my articles in the Review may recall this change in date to accomodate Superintendent Carvin's travel schedule.

The Board will vote on whether or not to establish an ad-hoc committee to study 4K, as I predicted. Other business includes approval of new courses (college math and intro to health care) and approval of staff changes. Discussion items that may be of interest include the Buildings & Trades Houses, the High School Graduation Exercise Booklet and a summary of the 2011 School Board Convention Highlights. It looks like the board report theme for administrators is mid-year goal updates. Stay tuned to my Review article for any breaking news on these items.

Blizzard Brain

Well, I usually don't comment on Current Events, but it's kind of hard to ignore a storm that spanned from New Mexico to New England and brought much of the heartland to a standstill. It was a scary storm for sure. When I picked up the kids at 3pm things were already getting dicey. I missed my son at TRIS and he wasn't yet home when we got home. I kind of panicked and he came strolling down the street just as I was leaving the house to go search for him.

Bill decided he wanted to plow at night as well as after the storm to "take off a layer" from the morning job. When he went out to plow, I foolishly told my daughter it would be OK to take the dog down to the corner and back. I thought the streetlights would be a good guide for her. Then the streetlights flickered off then back on. But I failed to realize how blind she would be when her glasses fogged up. Even the dog was terrified. She was completely frazzled and in tears by the time she got back to the house. She said she was at the end of the driveway and couldn't even see the house. Her dad was a bit terrified because he didn't see her come back. Neither one of them saw the other. Good Lord, that one goes into the stupid mom moment hall of fame (SMMHOF). I have a lot of nominated moments for the SMMHOF, but that one is definitely in the top three, if not THE number one contender. I am not nearly as blind as she is and would have been fine to just take off my glasses. She can't see more than 6" in front of her face without her specs. I asked her to forgive me and she did, but I suspect there will be a few nightmares in her future about that dog walk.

Apparently I am not the only person to have suffered blizzard brain yesterday. The Illinois State Patrol and National Guard had to rescue a passel of stranded motorists from various Illinois roadways last night. What the heck were they doing driving yesterday? Really, people? Two days solid of "Snowmageddon is upon us" isn't sufficient to give you pause to drive somewhere in that mess? Is it really worth it to risk your life for ANY supposed commitment you have? My vote is NO. The only people who should be on roadways then are people in need of emergency health services. I wonder how many babies decided NOW IS THE TIME with that big low pressure system moving in? All my babies were born in snowstorms, one was even three weeks early. I'm betting there are a number of new babes with names like Frosty or Rudolph or Jack (for Jack Frost or Yukon Jack). People will name their kid anything.

Of course, the forecasters aren't content to leave us in our current misery, but have warned us of future doom to follow yet this week. Oh, yippee skippee. One of our snow shovels is on its last leg so we might go get a replacement, but I'll do my usual shopping tomorrow and not worry about more snow. On the upside, the Klondike Derby should have plenty of snow for the activities on Saturday.