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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spooky School Board Meeting on Monday October 29 at 6:30 PM

The ECSD will hold its monthly meetings of the whole on Monday October 29 at 6:30 PM. Click on the link below to view the agenda. Of most importance is the approval of the levy for this school year. Things to know about the budget this year is that the State Aid is down a bit compared to what was predicted in July. This is because the district underspent last year's budget. So, you get less money from the state if you save them money. It kind of makes a perverted sense, but I wouldn't want my employer giving me a pay cut if he found out that I was being (GASP!) fiscally responsible. It does give you insight into why school officials have such convoluted thinking compared to the average Joe on the street about budgeting. The district still qualifies for the 50+50 per kid funding, accounting for about $180K increase. Once I get a chance to sit down with the district business manager, I will understand a lot more about the budget for this year. There are a lot more discussion items like employee handbooks and other joyful topics. Come join in the fun!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ECSD School Report Cards: District makes the grade.

I hope everyone has had the chance to follow my series of articles about the School Report Cards and increasing achievement expectations in the Review. The beauty about the new accountability system is how much information is contained in the score. It immediately pinpoints areas of strength and areas that need to be improved. This will be key to continuing to improve to the increasing standards each year.

One area that shows a need for improvement in the district is "closing the gap" for JC McKenna. That same category led to the High School getting the highest score in the Rock Valley North Conference, where they managed to significantly outperform McFarland in this important Priority Area and finally exceed a measure of academic achievement against the historically high performing district.

So much more information will continue to be gleaned from this data. Director of instructor Paula Landers is one of the most competent individuals I've had the privilege of working with. She will use this data to tweak current initiatives and inform future improvements.

Kudos to the district. I know they won't rest on their laurels as they must continue to improve. The only downside to the Report Cards is that as Agenda 2017 progresses into full swing, lots of things will change. The test will be switched over to Smarter Balanced in 2015 when NAEP cut scores will be in full swing. Parents and officials need to be ready to be patient while the new system settles in. Folks need to expect more than usual fluctuations in data because all the targets, tests and benchmarks will be changing pretty much constantly in the next three years. In a small district like ECSD, these data swings get exaggerated even more. So, my recommendation is to stay calm and be happy for now.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Warning: Predictable Rant to Ensue!

If any of you follow me regularly, you will know that I can be relied upon to rant about certain subjects. The biggest among these is voting or failing to exercise your civic right and responsibility and then qvetching about  the results. You either vote and earn the right to bitch or choose not to participate in your civic duty and lose the complaint perks. Simple and easy to remember. So, every opportunity to vote usually brings out the wild-eyed ranting maniac intent on changing the world. It never helps except to make me feel better.

So, here it is again. If you follow my print by-line in the Evansville Review, you may have read my article about the September 24 school board annual meeting. The one where every citizen in the district is eligible to vote on the tax levy for the coming school year. I just posted here on the blog to come out and vote last week. Exactly 18 citizens among more than 2000 eligible voters showed up to chime in on their view of the proposed tax levy. Every person I have ever met in this town complains bitterly about their tax bill. Of the 18 present, 15 were district employees and the rest of us were former board members. Oh the humanity. This is tantamount to leaving the fox in charge of the hen house. Really, people? REALLY? The next person who bitches to me about their tax bill who happens to fall in the category of "one of the 1,982 Evansville Community School District Electors who thought the Packer game was more important than your tax bill" and blames the school district is in for a real treat. You know who your are and so do I. By the way, how'd that Packer game work out for you?!?

By the numbers: The revenue cap was down again this year, the Fund 10 budget was down for the first time in, like, ever. The state aid was up and the non-referendum tax levy was down. Property values are predicted to remain relatively stable and the enrollment may decline a bit. All of this should point to a significantly reduced total tax levy. So why did it raise by some 1.5 percent? Because of the idiots in charge of setting up the financing for the high school referendum back in 2001 thought it would be a brilliant idea to back-load the debt so the ever increasing student enrollment could help finance the debt going forward. Except there hasn't been ever increasing student enrollment and the politicians decided that they would cut aid by $550 a kid, or nearly a million dollars, or about 8% of our total state funding. Somebody counted chickens that not only weren't hatched but weren't even a twinkle in their great-grandparents' eyes.  That means that the 2.8 million owed on the debt is the lowest debt levy the district will see until 2021. By 2020 the amount due to debt alone will be over 4 million dollars. To put that in perspective, the whole non-referendum debt owed this year is 5.15 million dollars. Even if  everything else were to remain the same for the next 8 years, which it won't, the amount of tax levy will nearly double once the referendum debt is added on in 2020. All referendum debt is outside of the revenue cap and goes on top of that in the total tax levy. Imagine that eventuality, if you can. Then the next time you see one of those board members from those days, kick him or her in the butt for me. I heard a conversation that went like this, "What were those board members thinking when they approved this?" "They were probably going based on the administrator's recommendation..." Note: it wasn't Heidi. Thanks for not being able to imagine the consequences if we didn't get increased enrollment in the district and not recognizing the fact that all state funding is at the whim of self-serving politicians who would screw their mothers if it would increase their standing in their world. That inability to think outside the box will haunt the district for a years to come.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Come Vote at the Annual Meeting! September 24th at 7 PM in the HS Media Room

Click on the link below to access the agenda and packet for the annual meeting as well as the agenda for the monthly committee meetings of the whole.

This is a meeting every elector from the ECSD can vote on the proposed tax levy. It is an advisory vote, which means the board has the final say, but they have the opportunity to get the pulse of the community at this meeting.

Highlights: The total tax levy allowed under the revenue limit for the ECSD district has increased by about $120,000 since last year. State Aid has increased by about $180,000 but the amount owed on the debt increased by nearly $350,000 this year due to the backloaded funding on the high school loan. Equalized property values are predicted to remain relatively stagnant, with a minute gain of 0.13% expected. Mill rate is expected to increase by 17 cents per thousand. Remember all the figures aren't finalized that go into the calculation of the mill rate and this is just an estimate.

Most informative about the data presented in the packet available at the school web site involves open enrollment. From 2009 to present, the open enrollment imbalance has more than doubled from a loss of $124,014.24 in 2009 to a loss of $254,172 predicted for this year. And the administration isn't convinced there's a problem yet. This has a double whammy impact. It reduces the state aid next year by dwindling the enrollment and sucks out the funding for this year as well to pay outgoing tuition. Good grief.  Anybody want to have a competition on how we could have spent that 250 grand they let walk out the doors? How many Ipads would that have bought? Let's see here. I see them offered on amazon.com for $605 for the 32 gig high end one. That would pay for nearly 420 of the suckers. Or, if you scale back to the 16 gig model, they could buy 635 of them and supply over a third of the students with them. Good good in heaven, in 3 years they could get every kid in the district an Ipad with the money they are sending down the highway to other districts because "there's no problem here." Indeed.

Stay tuned for my article in the September 26 edition of the Evansville Review regarding the annual meeting results and the committee meetings of the whole. I'll highlight the tax levy and voting results and any committee meeting results that were interesting.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

ECSD Board Meeting begins with a Board Retreat at 5 PM

Click on the link below to view the board packet for tomorrow's board meeting. This week they will start out with a board retreat presented in tandem with WASB (Wisconsin Association of School Boards) and WASDA (Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators). Regular meeting begins at 6:30 PM.

Highlights of the meetings include roles and responsibilities of board and administration, boards operation, building collaboration and working relationships, education reform in Wisconsin, school counseling curriculum, handbook committee and insurance committee updates and much much more. Come early and get a seat.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

We're now verklempt parents of a college student.

Our oldest went off to college last Thursday, explaining my absence here for the last month. She hates it when I blog about her, but she'll just have to deal. Preparing to send a kid to college is a lot more than just expensive. It's draining emotionally and physically. You shop constantly for a month, think you have everything and get to Madison and find out what critical items you forgot, like migraine meds, a bean bag chair and command adhesive hooks to hang up a calendar. I hate shopping, so this has been a month from hell just from that perspective.

We are so proud of our daughter for persevering through a challenging high school curriculum under duress of anxiety. She has already seen the advantage of being in an urban setting where she can go wherever she wants. "I'm never coming home!" She has discovered an internal strength she didn't know she had (I did, but she didn't) and already navigated some pretty serious roadblocks. She enrolled in classes that she's passionate about, which will increase the chances of her success. All in all, this has been an amazing time for her.

Our family also had the privilege of being ambassadors of sorts. Sarah has been in constant contact with her roommate from China since May. She goes by the name Echo because we gringos can't pronounce her given name properly. Echo texted Sarah on August 19, the day before she was supposed to fly to the states, asking her to find a hotel for her because she didn't know until that moment that she couldn't get  into the dorm until August 26. Good grief. How can a world-renowned university have such horrible communication skills? Failing to inform a young woman from half-way across the world that she has to get a hotel room for nearly a week far exceeds their poor track record with us. More on that later.

As soon as Echo told Sarah her predicament, Sarah said "You can stay here!" I was all for that, but two of our three cars were discombobulated, leaving only one for Bill to drive to work while I got the other two fixed. Echo had to stay at a hotel one night but we went up to whisk her away from Madison the next day. She told us she had never seen corn fields. Did she ever get a tour on the way home. She definitely has a sense for the American Rural Scene now, although we had to drive her to and from Madison most days so she could go to orientation and her placement tests. She got to move in on August 26 and we took a boatload of Sarah's gear up then too.

Echo is  an amazing young woman. She speaks English with an American accent that she picked up studying in upstate New York as a high school foreign exchange student. She has studied in Britain for a summer program. She has a biting sense of humor and self-deprecation. Our favorite remark of the weekend was when we reported to the Red Gym to retrieve her bedding to see a busload of mostly Asian international students being dropped off to get their bedding as well. "OH NO! I'm going to get lost in that sea of Asians. Not that I'm not one of them, but still!"

The best part of the whole ambassador gig was that the girls had a chance to get acquainted under a lower stress environment and found out they really like each other. Sarah introduced Echo to some other friends from Evansville going to UW-Madison and she already has a small group of folks to call friends too. A big plus.

Now, back to the lousy communication idiocy from the UW. These people seem hell-bent on insisting that your 18-year-old is a big adult with all the responsibilities therein, without factoring in the relatively low maturity level of most kids at 18. We have repeatedly been unpleasantly surprised about some policy or another on a regular basis, but the most egregious was the moped FUBAR. We purchased a used moped for Sarah in mid June to take with her to Madison. Some of you may have seen the recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the new moped policy enacted in June on campus. We were told about this at her orientation session on August 14, two months after said moped purchase, and I came out spitting nails.

Like cars, mopeds will now have to park in a designated lot between 8 AM and 4:30 PM, effectively making mopeds useless as transportation to and from most classes. I emailed the transportation department asking them why they didn't think it was important to inform incoming freshmen about this new policy. I got the boilerplate response from them stating that there had been public comment meetings, information was sent out to current customers, etc. "Where," I responded to the email,"in this laundry list of information dissemination have you included the parents of incoming freshmen? According to my resources, this is the largest incoming class of freshmen you have ever had and you have just managed to completely ignore 6000 potential customers." My husband, a UW-Madison alum, noted that the university also managed to hold their public comment meetings in May and June after most of the ones it effects had left for the summer. Nice, classic government maneuver. "These students are such a nuisance. Let's just change a policy while they're gone." I informed the transportation department that their response was completely inadequate and had they informed parents of this potential change, we would not have wasted the money on the moped at all. Also, please forward this complaint to somebody in charge of the transportation department since you are obviously a lackey. Maybe I was a little more polite, maybe not. Not really caring here.

A friend of mine noted that she was not a big fan of UW-Madison because of their overwhelming tone of arrogance and superiority in every communication. I agreed completely. Our daughter does not share this opinion of the university and never has. In fact, she considers it her consolation prize necessary to attend as the least expensive option on the table. I don't think she will think that way in the end after a fabulous liberal arts education, but her ability to challenge the status quo group-think already puts her ahead in my book. Yeah, verily. She does not feel indebted to the university for deeming her worthy to attend. Rather, her attitude is "I was accepted into 3 extraordinary programs and YOU are lucky to get ME, bastards!" You go girl. Note to UW-Madison: Standards are good, but they do not make you superior to any other big ten university. Get a clue and stop being so condescending. Kids nowadays are way too savvy to swallow their load of propaganda hook, line and sinker. So sit up and take note of the new world order, chancellor.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Next Logical Step After You Demonize the Teachers...

My friend sent me the link below and asked me what I think about easing teacher licensing rules. This has been on the radar for quite some time now with the advent of charter schools. I think this is a predictable course of events given the last few years in Wisconsin. I am sure this is aimed at luring instructors in STEM to public schools (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). There was already notoriously low motivation for people truly interested in and proficient in STEM areas to become teachers since they can make buckets of money in the private sector doing what they love to do. Now that our governor has demonized teachers, I imagine there might be a number of STEM teachers out there who have lost the motivation they did have and have decided to chuck the teaching gig in favor of doing science for a substantial salary. This places school systems in a quandary as to how they plan to teach the curriculum.

My mom was an English teacher. She spoke five languages and was an extremely intelligent woman who was educated far beyond her peers of the day. She went to college during WWII to earn her BA, putting herself through school by working at a munitions factory. She HATED "education" classes with a passion only equaled by her hatred of gym class and maybe math class. She thought they were the biggest waste of time on the planet that with zero value added to her teaching credentials, yet she was an outstanding teacher. She quit teaching in the early 70s because she couldn't tolerate red tape (the apple/tree analogy is apt here).  If a teacher says the "education courses" are for the birds, I'm wondering what their use is? My mom got her master's degree when we kids were small, about 3, 6, 8, 10 and 14. Imagine trying to type a thesis on an old fashioned typewriter with five hooligans surrounding her. No wonder she had no patience for idiocy. She barely had time to take a quiet bath!

So, while I don't think this will make that much of a difference in the overall scheme of things, I am skeptical that they will get what they're looking for in easing the restrictions. There may be a few outstanding natural teachers added to the ranks from this, which would be a good thing. There may also be a few clunkers added, but what profession isn't without its yutzes? On balance, I predict that everything will remain the same.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Madison MAP Testing Shows They are Falling Short Too

So, the great and powerful Madison School District has started MAP testing and the results are, well, as they should have expected when viewed as a whole. White kids are above national averages and children of color are below them. MAP testing stands for Measures of Academic Progress. They are taken at the computer by each student and the questions are tailored to the individual student. They keep answering questions until they hit the wall of achievement level and the test is ended. Scores are known immediately and areas of strength and areas that need improvement are highlighted FOR EACH KID. It is supposed to be a tool for teachers to use in order to more adequately provide instruction in their classroom. This is called differentiated instruction, or DI in the education vernacular. MAP results are not really effective for national achievement comparison.

OK, I'm going out on a limb here and going to say to the critics of ECSD that we have been doing MAP testing in our district for 5 years now. My newly minted graduate was in the guinea pig group in 7th grade, so I am keyed in on this topic. We can thank Paula Landers for being ahead of the curve on implementing this tool. What seems to escape the writer of the article as well as our district is this. It's very nice to know how one's district stacks up as a whole against the state (WKCE) and nation (MAP, NAEP), but what exactly does this data provide in the way of improving individual student achievement? Exactly squat. In this world of inclusive learning, school districts must have tools to provide DI for all levels of learners.  If you insist on teaching to some arbitrary mean that various test data indicates as the level of your class, you'll lose the top 30 and bottom 30 percent of the curve. That's 60 percent of the students being lost.  Used properly, MAP results could be a very effective tool for the teaching arsenal to solve this problem.

Sadly, it is my experience that my kids' teachers use it to verify what they already know about my kids, that they are above average, and use their MAP data to rationalize being satisfied with mediocre performance the rest of the year "because they are still above their peer average." I have no data to indicate it is otherwise with other children. In fact, I have spoken to other parents with similar issues. In addition, over 35 percent of the students in the quadrant report that began the school year above their peer group in reading in our district in 10-11 did not reach the achievement goal the MAP test sets for them. It seems that the district thinks it's OK that a child does not achieve to their potential. I am not of the same opinion.

The most recent instance of this injustice for us was during my son's 5th grade "education." This child has an enormous vocabulary due to being the third child behind two extremely high achieving sisters in language arts. He had to learn or forever be a victim of verbal warfare. I never spoke baby talk to him and encouraged this language skill too. However, as with many boys, he is less than thrilled with anything that requires him to read something other than anime and if you assign him to write something, one would think he has been asked to sever a limb or something. Thank you Boy Scouts for the merit badge documentation requirements, by the way. But I digress.

Not only did my kid fail to reach his personal achievement goal set for him by the MAP test (gain less than they projected he should), but he ended 5th grade at a lower achievement level in reading than where he started. This loss of achievement happened while he got straight As all year long in language arts. I began a slow burn that has not stopped. I went to the principal, I went to the teacher and I went to the administrator in charge. "He started out so high that it was hard for him to achieve." This is an unacceptable response. My child deserves to show some damn achievement after a year of instruction. I don't care if he started out higher than the mediocre goals you set for the masses. This is thievery, plain and simple. That year, as I recall, the entire grade level failed to meet the 50% level, which basically says they have achieved grade level performance. Interpretation of MAP results is a bit confusing, so go with me here. Anything less than 50% for a grade level indicates they have not achieved a years worth of learning. There has been a shake up in the 5th grade teaching team, but I think it goes beyond individual teachers. If there is an endemic attitude that high achieving students are OK to ignore and an insistence on mistakenly using MAP data to compare to national averages (like the article in the Madison paper did) instead of using it for the amazing tool it could be, there will be no dang improvement in overall achievement.

A shift to using this data as it was designed will help every single kid in the district. Students with cognitive disabilities need to feel individual achievement, too. Did I do better than I did last year? They don't want to know how they compare to the average. They already know the answer to that question. They wouldn't be in special ed if the answer to that question wasn't obvious. If each child at the lower end of achievement gains skills, the overall achievement scores will increase. Same for the high end kids. And the middle kids. Basically, teachers need to find a way to engage every student. This is the working definition of both an exceptional educator and differentiated instruction. Go forth and educate. Use the MAP tests for the purpose they were intended. Allow all students to gain academic achievement regardless of their start point.


Friday, August 10, 2012

UPDATE: Agenda and Packet link below. School Board Meeting this Monday, August 13 at 6:30 PM

The school board regular business meeting is scheduled for this Monday, August 13 at 6:30 PM. I'd refer to the agenda, but it's not posted yet. Transition is a bit bumpy. The July meeting didn't have a packet posted until late Friday or early Saturday before the meeting, but at least there was an agenda to refer to until the packet was posted. Today there's nothing active to click on at the website. I do know that Kelly Mosher, rock of Gibralter organizing them over at the district office, was on vacation until August 8, so I suspect that's why there's a big goose egg on the "agenda" and "packet" section of the website. Stay tuned, I'll post on Monday if available.


Cheerleading Not a Sport: Federal Court

Click on the link below to see that Quinnipiac University in Connecticut has been issued a smack down in federal court. They cut their volleyball team to fund the cheerleading squad, but got sued by the team on the basis of Title IX. Huh. Not so fast, said the court. Cheerleading is not a varsity sport and you are out of compliance in Title IX. Sort of like our own district trying to say that, with the addition of a girls' swim team, they now offer more sports opportunities for girls than they do for boys "if you include poms and cheer."  OK then. This is the same guy, who during the great poms debacle of 2009, said poms wasn't a WIAA sanctioned sport and the school could tell them exactly what to wear and it shouldn't look like it belongs on a street corner in the red light district. Ah, yes. It's amazing what can spew from a mouth that can speak out of both sides at the same time.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Now that's what I call ironic!

With apologies to whichever Pirates of the Caribbean movie that's from, I am compelled to direct your attention to the placement regarding tax news in the Janesville Gazette on August 3, 2012. On about page 5 or so of the Sports section, one finds a summary of the outraged bipartisan politicians demanding that Olympic medalists be exempt from paying taxes on their medal stipends the Olympic committee gives them. I haven't filled out tax forms in years because it's sort of like an Olympic sport for my husband. But back in the times when I did, I know there was some minimum amount below which one didn't pay taxes. And let's face it NONE of those sports are cheap so their expenses MUST exceed the pittance the OC gives these folks. Yes, taxes should be levied, but realistically none of those kids will pay much until they score those big sponsorship contracts, which ought to be pretty quick for the likes of Gabby Douglas (She's so cute! I saw her for the first time at these Olympics and I told Bill she reminded me of Mary Lou Retton with that million dollar smile. Then I saw her balance beam back flip twisty thingy-that's the technical term-and knew she was the real deal.)

Situated on flip side of that page, mere microns separating it from the outraged politician article, is an article about how identity theft is responsible for over 5 billion dollars in false tax reimbursements being sent to thieving bastards who often set up direct payments into the same bank account. Hmmm. Wonder if those blinking politicos are outraged about that? I know I am. Eyes on the prize, ya dorks. Maybe if you didn't sent billions of dollars to frauds you could afford to exempt Olympic athletes from paying taxes on their paltry stipends! That is all.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Public Comment Meeting on ECSD Preliminary Budget Tonight at 6:00 at Creekside Place!

Come to the presentation tonight by ECSD Business Manager Doreen Treuden. It will be informative and there is a chance to give input on the process. The Board of Education is seeking community input and direction for the hard budget choices they have to make. In the absence of direction, they can only do what they think is best. So make your 'druthers known!

Monday, July 30, 2012

School Board Meeting tonight at 6:30

Click on the link to view the agenda for tonight's meeting. There'll be a review of the budget and numerous policies necessary to do business in the absence of a union, some of which will be approved tonight.  There seems to be a few more resignations and some co-curricular contracts to approve as well.

My woman on the ground Chasin' has also noted that the new open enrollment law has effectively enabled every parent the option to enroll their kid wherever they want whenever they want. There is a lot of positive for this, but the huge downside is learning how to budget in such times. It's like trying to juggle fire, knives and alligators all at once. Huge cut in state funding, 10% more loss in federal aid than anticipated by the loss in ARRA funds and now completely unpredictable open enrollment whenever. I'm going to ask my contacts if they are aware of this clause in the new order and how it has effected their planning process. It should be interesting!

Hope this posts OK. I'm having tech. problems with my blog access. Source, unknown, but likely myself.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Should Surprise Exactly Nobody...

Click on the link below to see the "shocking" news about how the watered down student achievement assessment called the WKCE fails Wisconsin Students. I posted long ago on how the achievement "bookmarks" were originally placed by experts (teachers) for each grade, which indicated less than 50% of Wisconsin students would be considered proficient or advanced. In a monumental display of greed (to continue getting federal dollars) and stupidity, they lowered to bar to show a greater number of students at proficient and advanced levels of achievement. They still knew as little as before, they just scammed the numbers to make this level of "knowledge and concepts" look acceptable to the feds.

This is the kind of bald-faced hypocrisy that the vast majority of parents face on a daily basis with schools. A recent survey of students indicates over a third of them are under-challenged in grade level homework. Can you say mind-numbingly, idiotic worksheets? Criminey. This following exchange actually happened to me and was one of the many reasons I ran for school board."

Me to 4th grade teacher: "Challenge my kid. I see no homework. Ever."
Teacher: "Your student makes extraordinarily good use of the time given to complete homework in class."
Me: "This child is bored and you are losing their enthusiasm."
Teacher: "Maybe you could supplement at home. Your child has completed all supplemental materials I have for math." (this was six weeks before the end of the school year).
Me: "Okayyyyy, but we need to enroll them in the accelerated math program next year."
a month later.
Me: "Did you enroll my kid in the accelerated math as we had discussed?"
Teacher: Blank look.
Me: "You know, after you ran out of additional materials, we discussed this?"
Teacher: "Uh, no, we prioritized the proven language arts acceleration over challenging in both math and reading."
Me: "You know, students are perfectly capable of being bright at both subjects. Put my kid in the accelerated math track. Now."

This experience is one reason I am cynical every time a teacher blames inept parents for poor student achievement. If you are so blinking resistant to implementing action plans with those of us who are actively engaged and who do expect our kids to do their best, how must you behave with parents who are less motivated for various reasons (intimidated by the system, have a terrible outlook on education, etc)? I know there are people out there that make me shake my head and say, "That's the reason people should have to be licensed to become a parent." But really. There is no excuse for losing track of my kid's needs in such an egregious fashion. I am not paranoid and do not believe this is hatred for me or my kid. If this happens to actively interested parents, one is forced to conclude that it's happening to everybody.You can't have it both ways. You can't claim clueless and unmotivated parents cause systemic failures on the one hand and on the other hand revile those of us who give a flying fig as "helicopter parents." Set my engine to idle, Scotty.

Wisconsin faces the Herculean task of establishing a triangle of achievement starting with High Expectation, following through with a Challenging Workload and measuring progress with Realistic Assessments. Wisconsin has failed in both the High Expectation and Realistic Assessment legs of the triangle. Students themselves are saying that teachers are failing daily to provide them with the Challenging Workload part of the triangle. This 3 legged stool has NO leg to stand on.What the WKCE developers knew over a decade ago and chose to bury in obscurity has been revealed. The 82% of Wisconsin students scoring proficient or advanced in reading on the WKCE is really only 36% achievement using the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Reading Scale and the 78% of Wisconsin students scoring proficient or advanced in math on the WKCE is really only 48% on the NAEP Math Scale. Individual district recalibrations won't be available until the fall. Those results likely depend on what sections of the WKCE were done well and which ones were done poorly as to how the data translates. There's not some sliding scale somewhere that says "This percent on the WKCE always equals this achievement on the NAEP exam."

This jarring reboot into reality has been expected all along by those of us who pay attention to the lax standards foisted upon us by public schools. If this does not wake up the Wisconsin education community, I don't know what will. Time for them to stop whining and step up. Quit blaming disinterested parents, bratty students and pervasive social networking for failure to produce acceptable student achievement. All of these issues admittedly make teaching more of a challenge. If you went into your career expecting to have students who are motivated at all times, you need to start inspiring them and devise strategies that overcome or utilize the reality in which these kids live. That's where excellent teachers step in. Outstanding educators inspire awe in my heart and pull every last ounce of achievement from kids. I want every kid to have an outstanding teacher for every class. One shouldn't have to exclaim in rare reverie, "Oh, wow, Mrs. Peabody was so fabulous. You were really lucky to get her for 3rd grade."  Every. Single. Educator. Needs. To. Be. Outstanding. You are the difference. If you can't perform to that level every year, get the heck out of Dodge. Please. Do everybody, including yourself, a favor. Find your own nirvana. That is all.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Update to My "To AP or not AP" post of January, 2011.

Now that my oldest child has graduated and we received her AP exam scores yesterday, I have an update for everyone. It should remove all doubt from anybody's mind about the outstanding opportunity these courses represent for our college-bound students. Evansville's most recent data indicates that in 2010-2011, 65% of our students took the ACT. I believe one can safely presume that these kids plan to pursue some form of post-secondary education. Two-thirds of our student body expects to go to college or university. This is enormous and certainly should stifle those who dismiss our students as uninterested is such pursuits. At least I hope it does.

Our flagship University of Wisconsin at Madison is predicted to cost (all fees included) about $23,000 next year. That fact is overwhelming. When I consider that I graduated from a private college in 1980 with an (interest-free!) loan balance of only $10,000, I'm stunned nearly speechless. Those of you who know me realize that it takes an awful lot to render me silent. The last time I recall being speechless was when I found out that our former technology director stole from the district on my watch as board clerk. That was 3 or 4 years ago. Anyway, back to AP classes.

Sarah was eligible to take 6 AP exams: Biology, Calculus, Spanish, US History, English Language and Composition and English Literature and Composition. She opted out of the first three because these are subjects that really challenge her and she feels taking them another time in college won't hurt her. That doesn't mean that taking these classes was a waste of time. Learning to study to the level of rigor expected at university is an excellent experience to have in the safe and free environment of the public school system. Her passion is English Language, Literature and Composition and she loves History, so she decided to take those exams.

Each exam costs either $55 or $67, I can't remember which. So we paid somewhere between $165 and $201 for her to sit for these exams. Scores on AP exams are rated from 1-5. Universities traditionally accept scores of 3 or above for some kind of credit. Sarah scored a 3 or above on all three of the exams she took. I went to the UW website to find out what their policy is on awarding credit for AP exams and found out that she has earned 9 credits for her hard work. She did so well on both English exams that she is exempt from some introductory English class as well. I knew that this would help reduce the costs of her education, so I checked the website for how much they charge for tuition and fees are for 9 credits at UW.  I discovered that my kid earned over $4000 with all her hard work. And that is using last year's fee structure, which we all know will increase next year. Considered as an investment, AP can't be beat. Where else in the world can you see a 20 fold return on your investment in four months?  But the real benefit of AP, to which nobody can affix a price tag, is experience with college level rigor before you have to pay 10 grand a year just in tuition and fees. Many students in the Evansville School District have not been given the opportunity in the past to experience AP and honors classes because they were traditionally considered only for "the smart kids." That has left some very bright students completely unprepared for college. Their A game in Evansville became a C or D game in college, discouraging some so thoroughly that they quit. Our district is changing that, slowly and surely, with a plan to get every kid enrolled in at least one AP class.

Lack of AP experience is not the only problem facing Evansville students going to college. I have argued pointedly with the principal about the school effectively giving extra time to fix errors as being contraindicated since they won't have that chance in college. When you think about it, it's not even fair. Some kids may have time after school or during study halls and such, but some may not. I told him that as a parent anticipating forking out the big bucks for my kids to go to university, I expect him to structure the learning process, at least the last 2 years of it, similarly to the one they will see in college. His response was, "The goal should be increased learning, not adhering to some antiquated educational model because it's at university." We'll see what he's saying when his elementary school kids go to college for 50 grand a year apiece. I tell my kids to shoot for their best effort the first time. But given opportunities to correct errors simply allows for an "I can blow this off if I run out of time" attitude. Let's stop this nonsense and put everyone on a level playing field. And not by lowering each corner to the least common denominator either. Kids live up to or down to expectations. Please see the quote at the top of the blog. Rinse and repeat!

Another Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us?

Click on the link to see a podcast regarding the change in the Rock County Drought Status to severe. I wonder how much money it cost to come to that conclusion? You only need drive to Janesville to see the poor corn crops withering before your eyes. I'm so sorry for the farmers who have no choice but to watch all their hard work dry up and blow away.

In a related article in today's Gazette, fish kills are showing up everywhere in the upper midwest. The picture accompanying the article shows a carp die-off. I figure it's a sign that the apocalypse is upon us when carp croak. They are pretty hardy suckers. Pray for rain and cooler temperatures. Never thought those words would pass my lips (the cooler temps part. I hate winter.)


Sunday, July 8, 2012

School Board Meeting is at 6:30 PM July 9 (tomorrow)

The agenda is now posted as is the board packet. Please view the agenda at the link below. The packet is up as well. More musical chairs in special ed brings Shelley Bisch back into the fold with the departure of Terri Belz. All changes have had a net zero effect on the budget thus far. Ms. Treuden is like a hawk on that bottom line. Increases must be offset with a decrease somewhere for expenditures. For revenue, the structure for the state ends up with a net zero even if one part increases. Federal funding is decreasing across the board next year. As promised, since the preliminary budget was not approved by the board last month, every expenditure is coming forward for approval. Good show, ECSD Board of Education. Carry On!


Friday, July 6, 2012

School Board Meeting is On July 9, 2012 at, Well, Your Guess is as Good as Mine...

Not an auspicious beginning of Jerry's tenure. No Agenda or board packet posted as of 4:06 PM today for a meeting in 72 hours. School board is probably thrilled! If the usual time applies, it is probably at 6:30. I'll try to find out and post if it's different. Agenda is also a mystery. A fun meeting will be had by all. I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This and that on Heidi's Retirement

As ECSD enters its last week with Heidi Carvin at the helm, I can't help but feel only a sense of relief. She was a terrible school administrator and, sadly, women like her make us all look bad when they are in positions of power and misuse it. My entire career was spent trying to eliminate sexism from the equation and I wasn't always successful, but at least I tried to acknowledge when it was in play. My concern is that all people with limited experience in dealing with women in power will think this is how they all behave. It is not. Just the stupid ones who are unable to extricate themselves from the gender stereotypes in which they find themselves mired. I was recently told that I am a robot bitch who makes decisions based on evidence. I personally considered that a complement, though it was not meant to be one at all. I play against type and I am slammed, but I would find an equal if not greater number of people who, if I chose to make important decisions based on emotional content, would skewer me for that approach. The scientific approach is in keeping with my personality and I'll stick with that in most instances. When my kid gets hurt in a sport, maybe not so much. But in every incidence in which measured thought is necessary for a reasonable conclusion, I hope to always be able to say, "I used logic and sense to solve that problem."

I have only one wish for Heidi in her retirement. That is that she find peace which eludes her. She has responded to life in the way many bright women do, and that is to consider herself better than others because to be a brilliant girl when she was growing up was infinitely more difficult than it is now. Scorn and derision followed her everywhere and she likely was smarter than 99% of the people she found herself surrounded by. That does something irretrievable to a person's life outlook and it made her really self-absorbed and superior, leading to a leadership style in which she believed she was not accountable to anybody but herself. Hence her terrible relationship with every school board she has supposed to answer to, with varying degrees of failure, over the last nine years. When Michael Pierick wrested control back to the school board in 2006, things got infinitely worse because she was now expected to do what she was told. The result is the broken chain of command in which administrators were allowed to disrespect the school board. After all they have done for this district, that is absolutely an unacceptable result. Jerry Roth will have his hands full, but I have confidence he will do what needs to be done to correct the situation. It will take some work on both sides to repair the complete lack of trust the board has in everything the admin. does. If successful, the board will have to ditch the micromanaging style and show trust in various ways. Roth will have to prove he is capable of getting his staff in line and therefore worthy of the trust. It will be hard, but can look really great if done properly. Good luck to everyone in the next few years.

Oh, I actually have 2 wishes for Heidi in her retirement. The other one is that she avoid getting another job in which she has to supervise people. It is not her forte.  I know this because I am also a terrible supervisor and know how to recognize the failure in others...Carry on!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Posted wrong start time. Sorry about that!

Well, for heaven sake. I completely biffed on the school board meeting start time on Monday. Arrived an hour late just in time for a rousing discussion on co- and extra-curricular contracts. Thank God I made it to that discussion. I have seen board members ask questions about this since I was elected to the board in 2007. Five years of asking the same question with similar recalcitrant results. See my article in next week's Review.

Pre-view for the article: Sparks flew and unnecessarily incendiary language was used by administration to portray a simple board request/comment as a wholesale indictment of student activities and the intention of the board to cut them willy nilly, which was not and never has been suggested.  The question was asked as to why the activity coach/advisor contracts remained relatively unscathed while core curriculum underwent a serious fund-ectomy. Here's another fine mess for Jerry Roth to inherit. He will have his hands full, there is no doubt about it. I hope they don't think that poor man can walk on water or something. My expectations are set lower, for a simple breath of fresh air and true interest in evaluating all the data, not just the data that supports your bias. On both sides of any question. Time to grow up, school district administrators.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

School Board Business Meeting Monday June 11, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Click on the link below to view the board packet for Monday's board meeting. Looks like another long one in which they are dealing with a lot of issues. Big surprise. Approving the new transportation contract, another kindergarten section (higher than expected enrollment), staff changes, administrative salaries, non-represented salaries and a preliminary budget is all on the agenda for Monday. The preliminary budget looks balanced. But I have a meeting with the finance director to find out on what assumptions that has occurred, which she couldn't fit in until after the board meeting Monday. This is a busy time for finance folks, so I'm just happy she could sit down with me for a better understanding of the budget. Come early and get a seat!


Graduation Is Upon Us

Our oldest child walks across the stage tomorrow to receive her hard earned diploma. She has worked so hard and we are so proud of her accomplishments, often in the face of adversity. Her class is remarkably accomplished, sporting three valedictorians and a salutatorian. The GPA spread from #1 to #20 is about 0.15. These kids deserve a shout out, but beware of cheering for your grad aloud at the ceremony lest you get arrested or the administration withhold your kid's diploma until they or your family serve 20 hours of community service. These stories were featured by Anderson Cooper on CNN last week as "lunkheads of the week" or whatever he calls the feature where he pans stupid decisions on the air. Click on the link below for more on this story. I can't add any more to this ridiculous story except, "anal-retentive much?"


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To My Fellow Democrats

I know you are disappointed and I commiserate with you about the results of the recall election. But I beseech you all to stop trying to make excuses about why the democrats lost and move forward. There's plenty of blame to spread around to everyone. I have said here before that I was not interested in the recall even though I think Walker is a Yutz with criminals for friends and a serious inability to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Especially the second part. When I think about the money wasted on this recall, I think our friend Scott knows exactly who he will punish to pay for it. I hope the Racine race does change the balance so there is no longer a super-majority in the legislature. I haven't seen the official finalized data on this so will restrain myself from comment until all the data are canvassed. If the Dems did manage to overturn Racine's district, this will force Scotty boy to at least give a try at a semblance of playing nice.

I am also dismayed that the sheer huge quantity of cash raised through rich people supporting their puppet could have been given to any number of good works or public institutions such as schools. Their choice to give these many millions to our embarrassing, potentially felonious governor, certainly a felon-associate, is depressing in the extreme.

Finally, I heard a rumor that Walker testified before Congress in April that he never used a "divide and conquer" strategy in implementing his policies in Wisconsin. Then the infamous video of him describing exactly that strategy to one of his rich pals emerged. The word on the street is that he is going to be indicted for lying to Congress. That does seem to be the way in which these cockroaches are ultimately hammered. But I predict his teflon suit will continue to protect him. His supporters don't seem to mind that he surrounded himself with felonious characters nor that theft from veterans happened on his watch. It's sad that Wisconsinites choose to believe the rhetoric instead of doing the research.

For example, all that bunk about how schools have saved so much taxpayer money. Really? As with all things human, not all school districts are equally adept at administering taxpayer funds. But our "leader" painted every district with the same brush and penalized all equally. Evansville had already found a much more inexpensive health plan way back in 2007. "Saved" the district thousands per employee. However, this was in the day of the QEO, when increases were quoted as 3.8% in salary and benefits together. If the benefits reduced by x amount, that meant the salary increase pool increased by the same dollar amount and spread around as needed. The district really didn't realize any savings until the following year. The amount dedicated to the health plan was not as high and the wage increase was fixed and spread around. Then the stock market crashed.  Then they stopped the QEO, ostensibly to give higher salary increases to the teachers. But they forgot to teach administrators and board members how to bargain and our dear administrator gave away the farm. The "1% salary increase," when supplemented with the "step OR lane increase" turns out to be a 3.4% increase in the salary pool. Some teachers who earned their masters degrees last year experienced a total of 12% salary increase. Unacceptable and unreasonable in these times. THAT'S one of many reasons (with origins in the Unions) why Walker won. He gave the impression that Barrett would march lockstep with the unions, but Barrett already has proven he won't do so in Milwaukee. Some union members are enraged at some of the items unions collectively bargain for. There was an exit poll touted on CNN last night that had 36% (over a third!) of voters with Union affiliation (family member or themselves belong to a union) voted for Walker. Harsh reality, Unions. Take notice and knock off YOUR rhetoric.

The 5% our teachers contributed to their health plan last year only saved about $850 per teacher, give or take. This doesn't begin to address the 1.3 million dollars in state aid our district lost. Even if the teachers had been asked to contribute 12%, the 1.6 million dollar deficit would have been difficult to overcome. Next year, there will be no choice in the matter. Their hastily crafted and re-negotiated contract ends June 30, 2013. There won't be a choice but to contribute the full 12% next year and establish a new way to evaluate teachers in this new reality. I pray the demonizing of all public employees stops now and their contribution to society is appreciated for what it is. After all, teachers deal with 18-30 kids at a time and I have challenges with my mere 3 kids. Thank you excellent educators in our district for doing what I am unable to do and keep up the good work. Those of you who should have sought other careers long ago are on notice, however. You will have to improve or leave, as any professional should do.

Next week, the board will see a preliminary budget for next year. Pray there won't be any more chaos. Meeting is June 11, 2012 at 6:30. Come early and get a seat!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

LONG Board Meeting on May 14 Was a Breath of Fresh Air

Monday's board meeting was over three and a half hours in length and contained some very difficult but necessary conversations. The tone was respectful even in the face of disagreement. Hard conversations regarding the philosophy of the district and whether or not the budget cutting choices made reflected the philosophy of the community as a whole were finally opened under Board President Kathi Swanson's leadership. I applaud each and every board member's decision to finally  chime in on these challenging discussions. Bravo, board.

Another important aspect of the conversation revolved around the piecemeal approach to balancing the budget challenges with staffing needs. There was an elaborate plan made by administration to rescind lay-offs that on the surface seemed extremely well thought out. Upon delving into the situation, no final vision seems to be in place but rather several knee-jerk reactions seem to be occurring. It was very clear that plans that have been brought to the last few meetings and publicly posted on the school website were not thought through properly. The board as a whole made it clear that they were unwilling to act rashly in a knee-jerk fashion until the budget is balanced and a final "eagle eye view" district vision is provided by the administration. Administration has not done what they are paid the big bucks to do. Most egregious Example: The plan published on the website showed Mrs. Olenik (who is being laid off 50% of her GT position) as a 6th grade teacher when such a bump violated the teacher contract. Example 2: Budget cuts made that exceeded the deficit were announced a month ago. Open enrollment adjustments and retirement payouts in excess of those in the budget (how was THAT a surprise?) have increased that gap by some $300,000. So the explanation by the finance director that she was "within $100,000 of closing the deficit" floored me. Repeated requests for explanation and dogged determination of the board members to understand the impact of these expenditures was required and to their credit, the board members just kept asking the same questions over and over until they had a complete picture of how this came to be.  Again, bravo, board!

I hope the administration comes back to the meeting this Monday with their hackles down. The conversation revolving around the open enrollment figures (again seeing an increase in net students out of the district) was disturbing. The board has been asking for investigation into why the net number of students out has increased for the last five years and administration simply wrings their hands and brushes them off as if it were not anything they could do anything about. Never once have they surveyed families and on Monday, a draft of a survey to delve into just that problem was finally brought for board approval. The excuse that "45 of these students have never attended Evansville" no longer flies, even if they had to remind them of it again. As Nancy Hurley said, "If your numbers continue to increase, you have a problem. It's not the same people over and over again." When you bring spreadsheets that show 25 applying in and 75 applying out, you have a problem. The net loss is now 50 (if the data brought to the board is accurate), which represents in the range of $300,000 loss in revenue to the district. This is 5 teachers dammit. Or smart boards, supplies and other amenities which are virtually non-existent in our district now. "Should I send one of these surveys to every Open Enrollment Out family?" To their credit, the board did not yell "YES!" in unison, as they would have been completely in the right to do at that point. The good news is, they're finally doing it. The bad news is that it took so long. Now let's see if they actually use the data to lure families back to the district or simply take the parts that support their myopic view of the situation as proof they've been right all along and ignore the rest. I personally know of four families who have ditched the district because they are sick of beating their head against the wall in an attempt to work within the bureaucracy simply to get their child the education they need and deserve.

Too much was discussed on Monday to put into one post, so I'll end on this note. The board sent a message to administration that they need to involve the people affected by their plans to change Teaching Assistant benefits at the table. The best conversation I heard on this topic was started by Ms. Treuden at a meeting a few weeks back. She said that in pulling together comparables for this data, it was discovered that some districts simply don't offer any jobs in that category with enough hours to earn benefits. As a result, they can hire more aides and provide more student coverage. But that's a philosophical discussion that must be had with the ones affected by the decisions that appear to be being made in a vacuum. If that's the philosophy, how to implement and how to grandfather, etc. People are adults and only when you treat them like children with no voice will they respond like children with too much voice. Many of the motions planned for last Monday were tabled until either this Monday or the June (11) meeting; Again, BRAVO BOARD. They have steadily shown the administration that they aren't going to rubberstamp their plans and it's a mystery why administration continues to be surprised by the board insisting on a complete plan.

I'll address more regarding the budget after Monday's meeting. 

ECSD School Board Meetings of the Whole Agenda

Click on the link regarding the agenda for the meetings of the whole on Monday, May 21. If it's as lively as last week's meeting, reserve your front row seat now!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Agenda for May 14 Board Meeting

Click on the link below to view the agenda for the upcoming board meeting on May 14, 2012. There was a change in the 7/14 schedule to 14/21 to accommodate administrative schedules and give Doreen time to update the budget. My favorite rant topic is in this months action item, approving the middle school and high school handbooks which have the underwhelming 1.5 GPA "requirement" to participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Ever since I learned of this in 2007, I've been railing against it. It is a disservice to the students, the district and the educational system to even call this a requirement. It is a slap in the face of all instructors who take the time to prepare curriculum and provide our children with an education. Kids can slack off during their sport season SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY CAN. Not that the vast majority of our athletes would attempt this, but there's always a few humans in any population who are happy to scam the system to their advantage. Since no data has ever been presented to indicate that this would be a hardship on even ONE student, I suggest the administrators who want to coddle these kids look at the tag line at the beginning of my blog.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Evansville School Board Committees of the Whole to Meet April 23 at 6:30 PM

Click on the link below to view the agenda for Monday's Committee meetings of the whole. In addition to the annual re-org. meeting, the board will approve a few more staff changes (retirements, voluntary reduction in contract, resignations and child-rearing leave). They will discuss policies and the May meeting schedule, changed to May 7 and 14 because the 28 is a holiday and changed again because May 7 conflicts with somebody's schedule.

I hope Kathi Swanson continues as President. The board has  been very productive under her leadership  during a really difficult economic time. Imagine if she could steer the helm during better years. Tina would be a good fit as treasurer but otherwise, I see the board leadership as well suited as is.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Open Letter to Superintendent Schulte in Janesville

After I read the April 13 edition of the Janesville Gazette (I have to read the competition), I was greatly disturbed to see that the board directed the district to actively advertise open enrollment to their district in an attempt to poach area students and increase revenue. My relatives in Michigan are a year ahead of us in the negative economy and a governor that has declared war on teachers. They tried that tactic last year and have decided it's pretty uncivilized and didn't really solve the problem at all. Here's a copy of the letter I sent Ms. Schulte:

Dear Ms. Schulte:
I have provided a link at the end of this note to show you the end result of the plan for the Janesville School District to actively seek open enrollment students from neighboring districts. I don’t know how familiar you are with the economic plight in Michigan and the resultant war on public schools that has ensued. I am a free-lance journalist for the Evansville Review covering the school beat and a former school board clerk. I am very familiar with school finance. Several of my relatives are teachers in Michigan and they have had a much tougher time of it under their governor than we’ve had here in Wisconsin. Their battle is ahead of ours because there was no lag time between the governor’s pledge to wage his war and his implementation of the war. Last year my home county of Lenawee responded to the cut in state aid by a full-out ad campaign to poach neighboring students, just like your district is planning to do. Every dollar you spend in advertising is one your board swipes from a student in need of education. I simply ask that you provide this link to your board members to give them a crystal ball view of things to come if they go down this path.
Our former Board President Michael Pierick likened the idea of increased incoming open enrollment students to the factory where it costs a dollar to make a widget but sells it for only fifty cents. The product is selling like hotcakes but they can’t figure out why they keep losing money. The latest data provided in your website indicates that your cost of educating each student is $10,639. Your state aid is only $6,971 for the same year. If the state transfers to you $6,971 for every incoming student but it costs you $10,639 to educate said student, you’re losing $3,668 on every OEI student “transaction.” This problem is compounded if the student seeking open enrollment to Janesville has special needs, where the true cost of educating can be much higher than average and not fully covered by High Cost Aid transfers, which cost a great deal of administrative costs to recover from the district of origin. Open enrollment does provide an outlet for students whose needs aren’t being adequately met in their home district. It is not a revenue enhancer any more than 4K is. Once your initial bump to the budget has passed, you will find yourself in the same bleak situation as before. Rate of decline will continue at the same pace as before without actually solving the problem. 
I hope this helps in some way to navigate these difficult financial times all districts are facing. Robbing your neighbor for a temporary uptick in revenue is no solution at all.
Melissa Hammann

Monday, April 9, 2012

School Board Agenda and Packet for tonight's meeting is very full

NOTE: The meeting will begin with an executive session to finalize lay-off decisions. The public meeting is estimated to begin at 7:30 PM.

Click on the link below to view the ECSD Board Packet for tonight. The agenda is really full of important topics. They will approve lay-offs, discuss WKCE results, discuss the district office reorg, discuss the budget modifications from the health insurance plan design changes, discuss staffing recommendations from Mrs. Ashby, and much much more. Join us at 7:30 if you're interested in any of these topics.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Attention Janesville Gazette: Read Why Public School Administrators Are Hard to Attract to Wisconsin

Oh, and Happy Easter too, everyone. Or whatever you're celebrating today. It's a gorgeous day, so celebrate Spring at the very least. Non-Christians can appreciate the story of self-sacrifice for the good of the whole and renewal embodied in the story of the Resurrection.

Today's issue of the Wisconsin State Journal reviews the challenges Madison Public School District will have attracting a new district administrator. One of the issues they highlighted was the lack of a law protecting applicant confidentiality throughout the process, like they have in Illinois and Maine. The Journal noted, "Wisconsin open records law allows the public to access the names of any candidates forwarded by a recruitment firm to a school board for consideration."  Please notice the use of the word ALLOWS. It doesn't state that said search firms MUST RELEASE THESE NAMES AS IT IS A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY AND INQUIRING MINDS MUST KNOW. The subtitle on page ten is "For applicants, 'confidentiality is huge.' " Listen up, Janesville Gazette!

The Evansville School District recently experienced this in its full glory. It was NOT the general public that was interested in forcing the search firm and the district to prematurely announce the applicants for the job. It was a specific single-minded reporter determined to satisfy the prurient interests of just a few readers as to the laundry list of applicants for the job. No consideration was afforded for the five not chosen and their public embarrassment or their job security in a sketchy economy.

The fault for this breach of etiquette does not lie with the open records law which, when used as intended, is a force for balance in our society. The fault lies with unscrupulous newspapers searching for every way to increase circulation regardless of how many bodies they leave in their wake. These self-same rags reduce every election to a round-house, a mud-slinging spectacle that showcases only the worse of human nature. None of the beauty and intrinsic goodness in the human condition that produced our beloved democracy is evident because these foul wastes of trees mistake whisper and innuendo for news. This goes double for MSNBC (except Rachel Maddow) and FOX News (and occasional Bill O'Reilly fun). Except they're foul wastes of broadcasting signals.

My rant is done. Please return to your regularly scheduled Easter.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

National Talking Heads Reading WAY Too Much Into Democrats Voting for Santorum

Was anybody else amused by the national talking heads on CNN discussing the "strange" results in Wisconsin exit polls where democrats were voting for Santorum? I was a little jealous because nobody ever gave me an exit poll. Anyway, the theories abounded, but the funniest one was that these were "Reagan democrats." Oh for pity sakes, you people are clueless. This is the state where Republicans force primary elections by running fake democrats, as if nobody is clued in on this strategy. HAH! So, it's not much of a stretch to think democrats would vote for a republican, in an open primary in which you don't have to declare your party and may vote for whomever you want and there is no opponent to your guy.  It's even less of a stretch to think those self-same democrats would vote for the candidate they think their preferred democrat could more easily beat in November. DUH! Reagan democrats indeed. Have you not been following the politics in this state recently? Nobody is reaching across any aisle in Wisconsin these days and my call on this "strange democratic phenomenon" is mischief making in full swing. I voted for Ron Paul. I know, a throw away vote, but I loathe him least of the four actually left in the race.

I would like to congratulate Sharon Skinner and Tina Rossmiller on retaining their seats on Evansville School Board. The results in the paper were a bit higher than those on TV when I posted last night, but Sharon maintained her lead over Marshall. The official canvassing will take place April 10 in order to allow time for absentee ballots to make their way to the various clerks.

Sharon and Tina have worked tirelessly, especially this year, and they deserve the nod.

They were on the board when it built the fund 10 balance to the point where it could be used to close the budget gap this year.

They were on the board that completed strategic planning with citizen input this year so the board has a road map for success when making excruciating decisions.

They were on the board this January when it successfully renegotiated a teacher contract that was not in the districts best interest due to hasty behavior by the district administration last March that lacked foresight.

They spent a lot of extra time and effort in the process to hire the new district administrator, Mr. Jerry Roth.

Some of Reese's supporters outright lied about Sharon Skinner missing a lot of meetings this year. Even with this ridiculous schedule, in which the board often met 2-3 times a week, Sharon only missed one meeting since last July. Her track record has been impeccable for a few years now.  Her health is nobody's business if it doesn't affect her board performance. It isn't evident in her attendance record for the last two years, which is the only bar by which she should be measured. I credit the smear campaign he allowed to happen on his FB page for the narrow margin by which he has lost. It was shameful.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Channel 3000 Declares Rossmiller and Skinner Winners

The Channel 3000 scroll across the bottom of my TV has declared the Evansville School Board voting results to be 813 Rossmiller, 754 Skinner and 699 Reese. It was a close race, which surprises me on two levels. The incumbents have done a great job and the random placement on the ballot (drawn out of a hat) favored Sharon and Tina with top billing. I say this "favors" them for folks who are uninformed often just select the top two.

This suggests a few scenarios. Assuming everyone who voted did in fact vote for two candidates (sometimes they don't), we can assume two thirds of the 2266 votes was the number of school board voters at about 1511. They are not all from Evansville because the district is comprised of voters from several outlying areas. 

Either voters really are uninformed about the school district and how dang hard their representatives have worked to keep this district afloat or they have bought into the smear campaign Marshall and his minions have waged against the incumbents. Witness the horrid lies posted on the GazettExtra website until a stand-up citizen demanded that they remove them from the post. And people have the temerity to call the Review a rag!

 I hope the election results tonight stand and there aren't any surprises tomorrow! (Preliminary) Congratulations Tina and Sharon!


Oh, and if I'm being too subtle, please vote today. No complaints allowed if you don't exercise your right to vote!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

JC McKenna May Also Face AYP Problems

So, here's the JC McKenna data. Here's the key for the alphabet soup involved. AYP is Annual Yearly Progress. PI is Proficiency Index. SH is Safe Harbor. CI is Confidence Interval. WKCE is Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. Performance levels on the WKCE: A=Advanced, P=Proficient, B=Basic and M=Minimal. NCLB is No Child Left Behind. SWD is Students with Disabilities.

There is good news for "All Students" and "Economically Disadvantaged" students in both Math and Reading.

Math (target value is 79%): All students PI is 89.75%, Economically Disadvantaged students PI is 81.25%.
Reading (target value is 87%): All students PI is is 92.75%; Economically Disadvantaged students PI is 88.7%.

The subgroup challenging our district's achievement of AYP, and arguably that of districts across the nation is the Students with Disabilities. This is a fundamental flaw in the NCLB legislation. Certainly all students should be able to expect to increase their achievement levels WHEN COMPARED TO THEIR OWN PREVIOUS ACHIEVEMENT.  WKCE does not measure this at all. It's just an amalgam of this lumped in with all other students. Add to the fray the unreasonable expectation that SWD who qualify for special education services achieve at the same level as their regular education  counterparts and there is a ticking time bomb awaiting to go off.  Districts are severely limited in the number of SWD whose Alternate assessment results can count as Proficient or Advanced for purposes of the NCLB calculations (1% district totals). So, here's the data:

Math (target value is 79%): SWD PI is 57.55%, 29.45% lower than the target value. It's possible but not probable that this value will meet AYP through the CI calculation. The direct Safe Harbor calculation shows a 24% increase in the number of students scoring B+M and the Inverse Safe Harbor calculation shows a 29% increase as well. Both values are far from the 10% decrease required to qualify for AYP through Safe Harbor.

Reading (target value is 87%): SWD PI is 66.9%, 20.1% lower than the target value. This has more of a chance of falling within the CI to meet AYP than the Math results. If it doesn't fall in the range using the CI, safe harbor data is bleak. Both Safe Harbor calculations for reading show an INCREASE in the percent of students scoring B+M. The first Safe Harbor calculation shows a 15.4% increase, the inverse value indicates an 11.4% increase, failing miserably to meet the 10% reduction criteria to achieve AYP through Safe Harbor.

It's hard to extract all the data from the WINSS system necessary to do precise calculations of these critical NCLB AYP evaluations. As I said for the previous post, I'll decline to make any predictions. Here's the data for you to review and keep in mind once the state comes through with their answers later this spring.

TRIS WKCE Reading Data Isn't Pretty but Math Looks Safe

I'll focus on TRIS WKCE results today. It takes a lot of calculations and I'd rather split up TRIS and JC McKenna data. However, based on my abysmal track record of accurately predicting the actual state results, I will not do so. The state applies the 99th percent confidence intervals (CI) for data that are below the standard. They do not share this information so the final decision is up to them in a classic double secret probation ala Animal House.

Key: P=Proficient;A=Advanced;B=Basic;M=Minimal;PI=Proficiency Index;AYP=Adequate Yearly Progress;WKCE=Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam;CI=Confidence Interval

First the bad news:

Reading: The standard proficiency index (PI) to be met this year by Wisconsin public schools is 87%. The calculation is (P+A)+0.5(B). All students met the standard with a PI of 89.8%. Economically disadvantaged students just missed the standard at 85.75%, but application of the CI will no doubt show them meeting AYP.

Students with Disability (SWD) failed to meet the standard with a PI of 56.2%. This is 30.8% lower than the standard (35% as a percentage of the standard value). If this meets the CI calculation, it would be a bit stunning. There was a slight decrease in the Basic and Minimal performance, which values are used in the calculation of Safe Harbor. But the requirement is 10% and the calculation is only 3% decrease in the sum of these values. If the subgroup still fails AYP at this point, the state allows a second safe harbor calculation to determine AYP. If the inverse of the PI (100-PI) decreases by 10% or more, safe harbor is granted. This statistic measures if minimal performers are moving up to basic performance. TRIS increased their inverse of the PI by 9.1%, indicating that even if the overall (B+M) value has decreased slightly overall, it was achieved as basic performance decreased and minimal value increased.This is a very bad sign.

Now the good news:

Math: The standard PI for math this year is 79%. All students at TRIS met the standard handily with a PI value of 89.5%. Economically disadvantaged students earned an PI of 81.25%, also achieving AYP straight out. SWD achieved a PI of 65.3%, missing the standard by 13.7% but likely meeting AYP through the CI calculation. Even if that didn't happen, the Safe Harbor calculation shows good improvement in the math scores of this subgroup, with a 21.6% decrease in basic and minimal performance.

I don't know what the solution is, but the reading specialist at TRIS presented the intensive program they are using at TRIS this year to engage students in the reading process. Students of all achievement levels are included and challenged to their ability level. If continued, it's probable these terrible reading trends could be reversed at TRIS. I pray the cuts do not hit this valuable program.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Recommendations for Evansville School Board and Why

I recommend that the voters of the Evansville School District re-elect both incumbents to the Board of Education. Sharon Skinner and Tina Rossmiller have served the district well in their time on the board. 

Positively speaking:

1-Tina and Sharon were part of the board that created and maintained the policy to increase the fund 10 balance to the levels recommended by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Because of this conservative approach, the district had funds available to close the $672,000 deficit this year.

2-There are so many variables in public school funding right now that the continuity of the board membership would be something that could be relied on as they forge ahead in these difficult economic times. Their experience (six years for Tina and 3½ years for Sharon) is valuable to the board. The incumbents already know a great deal of history of the district and this will save the board a lot of time necessary to describe certain situations and back-stories of a program.

3-Both Tina and Sharon are deeply involved in school and community volunteer programs. Their contributions there help them to make logical and informed votes for the board.

Politically speaking:

4-Tina and Sharon have similar philosophies and voting patterns as the challenger Mr. Reese purports to have. His addition to the board would not change the voting results in any way.   If he wants to introduce change, Mr. Reese should do some research to find out which board member’s votes he would disagree with and run against them next time around.

5-In addition to not changing the voting results in any way, electing Mr. Reese will introduce a person who is unfamiliar with the specific budget details of the district. His failure to attend School Budgets 101 in January shows he either thinks he already knows it all or isn’t willing to put in the time necessary to learn if it takes away from his private time. From experience, I know school budget understanding comes as a result of experience, often requiring over a year of intense scrutiny. The board can’t afford to wait for him to get this experience under his belt. 

6-Mr. Reese has run a contentious Facebook page on which he threw number of local citizens under the bus either by his own postings or those of his sycophants. Only when his niece became a topic of conversation, according to Mr. Reese, did he clamp down on the postings. For full disclosure, my employer and I were included in his public outrage. The items he became angry about (me not identifying his specific school district and indicating he had lived his whole life in the area when he has lived most of his life in the area) were trivial. How will he react when truly difficult problems cross the board’s path? The entire episode indicates a combative personality. The school board cannot afford this kind of divisive behavior.

7-Finally, I found it distasteful that Mr. Reese posted my questions and his answers on his Facebook page. Using my work product on his FB page is unacceptable. He was asked not to post items published in the paper but chose to ignore that request for the first four installments. Apparently he got the message from somebody else because he never posted the last question. Omitting 2/3 of the story by presenting only his answers is also pretty disingenuous. 

So, there’s my recommendation in a nutshell. I’ll probably catch some flak for this posting, but I’m not worried about it.   The positive attributes of Sharon and Tina and the political ramifications of re-electing the incumbents are more important than Mr. Reese’s behavior anyway.