Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutiny

2012-12-13T06:15:00Z 2013-01-21T16:50:20Z Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutinyJEFF GLAZE | Wisconsin State Journal | jglaze@madison.com | 608-252-6138 madison.com

Closing the achievement gap in the Madison School District will require a strong core curriculum in school and more support from outside of school, leaders of the district, city and county said Wednesday.

Madison School District Superintendent Jane Belmore, Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi met Wednesday before the city’s Education Committee to discuss collaborative ways to help struggling students.

The three were in agreement about needs to improve student attendance, foster parent involvement and increase access to after-school programs. Other issues, such as increasing the amount of summer programming, received less attention.

Soglin reiterated many points he detailed earlier Wednesday on his "Waxing America" blog. Those included expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments. He said the city, county and district should not limit their search for solutions.

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding. In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them," Soglin said.

Soglin said he’s looking at successful programs in cities such as Boston and Chicago. Belmore echoed Soglin’s efforts.

"We’re investigating what other cities have done in this area. We’re looking at access for everyone," she said.

Belmore added her focus has been to push literacy to keep students at their grade level.

"This year it’s really been my focus to make sure that everyone has access to a viable and guaranteed curriculum in the area of literacy," she said. "I firmly believe that that’s where we need to have all of our students able to read, listen, speak and comprehend at grade level."

Parisi said he felt the county’s role was to provide support for families with children in the district, similar to early childhood programs being offered at Leopold Elementary School.

Urban League President Kaleem Caire attended and offered comments to the committee. He said he agreed with many of the points, but thought the reforms offered by the group fell short for struggling students.

"Those things alone will not move the needle educationally for the children we serve," Caire said. "We have got to fundamentally look at how we educate our children and also be willing to change it."

Caire urged the committee to include minorities groups in the process and some of the district’s top teachers in their discussions.

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(10) Comments

  1. rrivoire
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    rrivoire - December 13, 2012 1:56 pm
    Hi Norwood. I figure, based on your comments, that you lost out on a job or were otherwise fairly outcompeted by a white union member. Your comments are a constant whine about how white liberals and union members have stifled your poor little self and the black youth of this city. And aside from perpetuating racist stereotypes, both about underachieving black youth and "White liberal Madison," I really don't think you're accomplishing anything. Maybe it's cathartic for you? Whatever, it mostly makes you look like a clown, which is why you must post anonymously. Keep keeping on, anonymous valiant Race Warrior!!!
  2. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - December 13, 2012 10:44 am
    Magnus. Some parents suck. So your plan is to discard kids born to bad parents so we can pay for the legacy of their bad parents the rest of their lives for generations? You are brilliant. Why didn't we think of this sooner? Thank you SO much!
  3. Gretna Green
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    Gretna Green - December 13, 2012 9:54 am
    We put engineers on committees to talk about roads and buildings in a scientific or reasonably objective way. Putting school district employees on this committee is like having the contractor we are working with sit on the oversight committee for his/her own project. You are favoring the status quo right out of the box. Putting only elected people and no one with specialized expertise who knows about the science of child development or research findings is just not adding anything. What about pediatricians? What about someone from health care? Can we find ANYONE who is not on the ballot at some time in the year and who will not be swayed by the whims of the "majority"? I don't care about the members' ethnicity, but, rather, the ability to add a reasonably objective voice. No one who sits in an elected office can honestly say they are not influenced by the desire to be liked by the public generally or the desire to not be disliked, and that has bred stalemate and inaction on public education in this town. The fear of losing an election is a powerful contributor to what a person will do or say. We need some other voices.
  4. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - December 13, 2012 9:29 am
    Whatever we do, let's be sure to have white bureaucrats dictate to black people what their problem is and how white people know how to solve it. White liberal Madison must continue to condescend at all times. In all meetings, with every program. It has worked so well thus far. And we can start by blaming black children who chose to be poor with parents who lack skills. Let's blame them because that is a sure way to get ahead of the problem. Oh. And let's give white union members more money to continue to stifle innovation via John Matthews. Stay progressive Madison.
  5. Gretna Green
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    Gretna Green - December 13, 2012 9:25 am
    The joint committee membership does not seem to make a lot of sense or add a lot of insight. The sausage-making democratic process for public education is the school board. The board serves a necessary and vital function, even when we disagree with its actions. This city-county committee includes local politicians and hand-picked members of the school board whom the mayor likes, setting aside those with other views. We are in a city with a huge repository of knowledge in our mental health professionals, urban education faculty, value-added data experts, special education faculty (a very high percentage of struggling African American and poor students are labeled disabled), the Waisman Center in its full spectrum, criminal/police science, integrated employment agencies, etc. Why would a bootleg school board comprised of the usual suspects and appointed by the mayor add much to the this already overly political discussion? We need to put people in power positions who would not want to run for office but have something to share. There is research to show what works in schools and we need to get beyond the hoary Madison opinions and politics to the data. Cities and counties have a big role to play, and the mayor stepping up and adding his voice is a great thing, but mayoral political control and/or posturing is not necessary or helpful. Old ideas and beliefs are entrenched in our mindset and we need to open the windows to scholars, professionals in human services and mental health, etc. An advisory joint/cross-jurisdictional committee like that in addition to our school board would be very helpful. How can we get the facts and data on the table in the present committee, where everyone has a personal stake in what happens: either by wanting to please the public and get elected or keep his or her job in the school system. Several of them have closed their minds to some options or at least invested their reputations in certain ways of thinking.
  6. 4Petessake
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    4Petessake - December 13, 2012 8:40 am
    "Caire urged the committee to include minorities groups in the process." Why would you do that? The white elitists (Read: Liberals) Madison know best, just ask them!

    Caire provided a proven solution to help address the problems but was shot down because of a "We know best" attitude and a genuine fear that his way may actually work! If it did work, they would no longer control the monopoly. Instead lets just keep throwing money at the problem (easy to do when it is no your money).
  7. Whazzat
    Report Abuse
    Whazzat - December 13, 2012 8:04 am
    MagnusP - you are spot on. There is another major issue responsible for the failure of minorities in the school system. Children should not be having children. We cannot expect good parenting skills from 16-17-18-19-20 year olds. The underachievement problem will not go away until leaders in the minority community address the issue. Kaleem doesn't want to talk about it because there is no money to be made tackling the real problem.
  8. MagnusP
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    MagnusP - December 13, 2012 7:38 am
    It is very simple. Parents do not demand that their kids stay in school, do their homework and get passing grades. Until that happens don't worry about enhancing the educational experience.
  9. wipolitics
    Report Abuse
    wipolitics - December 13, 2012 7:23 am
    "You cannot fail to parent your children at home, then expect teachers to work miracles with them in the classroom."
  10. EnuMPowers
    Report Abuse
    EnuMPowers - December 13, 2012 7:03 am
    Is that an elephant in the room? Shhhhh, nobody mention it.

    Hint - This isn't a school problem.

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