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

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.