Madison Metropolitan School District
Madison, Wisconsin

Art Rainwater, Superintendent
Minutes for Performance and Achievement
March 18, 2003
Doyle Administration Building
545 West Dayton Street, Room 103
Madison, Wisconsin

The Performance and Achievement Committee meeting was called to order by Chair Bill Clingan at 5:07 p.m.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Bill Clingan, Shwaw Vang


OTHER BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT: Carol Carstensen, Bill Keys (left at 7:10 p.m.)

STAFF PRESENT: Sue Abplanalp, Jane Belmore, Mary Gulbrandsen, Kurt Kiefer, Tim Potter, Joe Quick, Art Rainwater, Mary Ramberg, Barbara Lehman - Recording Secretary

  1. Approval of Minutes

    It was moved by Shwaw Vang and seconded by Bill Clingan to approve the minutes of the Performance and Achievement Committee dated March 3, 2003 as distributed. Motion unanimously carried by those present.

Agenda items were taken up out of order.

  1. Announcements

    There were no announcements.

  1. Report on the District's Fine Arts Program

    Rick Neuenfeldt, Coordinator of Fine Arts for the Madison District, gave a presentation on the partnership potential between various Madison community arts organizations and the district and those already in progress (a copy is attached to the original of these minutes). Mr. Neuenfeldt also distributed a "Charitable Giving Opportunity" letter asking for support to mentor the music program.

    Discussion: The district's grantwriting person is involved. Few examples nationwide where school districts have developed tighter relationships with their community arts organizations. Confirmed that this position would be the most effective at coordinating such an effort.

    Follow Up: Update the Board in spring 2004.

  2. Report on the District's Hmong Students

    Mary Gulbrandsen and Kurt Kiefer presented a number of charts of MMSD enrollment by ethnicity going back to 1991 through 2002 by elementary, middle and high school levels and also Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test performance by ethnic group, algebra completion, geometry completion, and attendance by elementary, middle and high school levels (copies are attached to the original of these minutes). Presentation highlights: overall enrollment has continued to flatten out, the population of ethnic and racial minority groups has increased almost in half from 1993 but is not at a particular balance across grade levels. The elementary student population has been going down but ethnic and racial minority groups are going up. The Hmong population has been declining for the last three years at the elementary level. The middle school level has increased the most over 200 percent. The high school level has also increased fairly significantly but has been flat for the past three years. Mr. Kiefer cautioned people about drawing inferences from the data considering the extremely small size of the group of Hmong students compared to other groups. Ms. Gulbrandsen noted that there are about 60 to 80 students per grade level. More students were tested last year in that group than ever before. Specific performance data was shared on the three priorities.

    Discussion: Looking for reasons why attendance drops off so sharply at the high school level for Hmong and other Southeast Asian students. Core reasons have not yet been uncovered.

    Ms. Gulbrandsen reported that the district social workers are in the second year of an attendance project identifying students who show a drop and targeting interventions. Reasons vary, e.g., starting work, being tired, etc., and planning interventions to match those. The project will also look at the courses being taken and ESL to see how much that is an issue.

    Discussion continued: Out of 221 students there may be only 20 that are having attendance problems. Looks dramatic on the charts. Not far from the national attendance figures. Majority of Southeast Asian students are Hmong. Ver little decline in attendance for other Southeast Asians but very large for Hmong. Think it is more than individual students. Think is the way the district approaches Southeast Asian kids in general with curriculum and support and how the students are prepared to enter high school. Part of it might be cultural and community but asking the district about its efforts to reach out to the community to gain some understanding. The District needs to take the lead. Report from the social workers by the end of the year will tell more. Other district efforts over the last 2-3 years with Joining Forces for Families, Hamilton's joint workshops, Choua Her's work in the community with Hmong families. Have to look at how Hmong kids are taught, at what stage they are taught to deal with high school curriculum, and how long they are kept in ESL programs. Third generation kids are much more fluent in English. Current Hmong teenagers need the courage to go to college.

    Follow Up: Summer report on Hmong issues.

  1. Public Appearances

    Therese Kolan, Elementary Assessment Committee, supported fall and spring assessments at the elementary level. She gave detailed information about what is learned through the assessments. Teachers then know how to group students and select materials and what the next level of challenge will be. Each teacher needs to give the assessment but there needs to be adequate release time early on in the fall and again in the spring. A uniform plan needs to be established throughout the district.

    Kate Simpson, Elementary Assessment Committee, presented a historical overview of what has been done by the MTI assessment committee that met in September to gather input from teachers on their concerns with doing the assessments--what was lost and how classroom time was compromised. She provided a chronology of events involving correspondence with staff, committee minutes, teacher rights and responsibilities under the contract, a labor meeting at the temple, using substitute time, advising principals, involving Jane Belmore and MTI. She stated that teachers should use contract time and should not have to use planning time. The board then referred the issue to this committee. She distributed copies of signed petitions from several of the elementary schools, the 2002-03 districtwide assessment schedule, a chart of substitute teacher release time for administration of primary assessments, and correspondence with Jane Belmore and MTI (copies are attached to the original of these minutes).

    Marsha Gregg, Elementary Assessment Committee, noted that the PLAA and PMA follow the kids and provide really good information districtwide. What has not changed is how to get them done, which is as different as the assessments once were. Their goal is to make a consistent plan for doing the assessments.

    Barb Christopher, Elementary Assessment Committee, reviewed what was in the packet of information. Their recommendation was to form a committee composed of Jane Belmore, 2 to 3 principals, a few teachers appointed by MTI, an MTI representative, and the Assessment Committee to problem solve the issue. They hoped this group could convene and report back to the Performance and Achievement Committee by May 1 in time to for fall implementation.

    Eve Degen, MTI, noted that a staff representative has been meeting with the group since last fall. Speaking on behalf of MTI, they thought it a great idea to form a committee to exchange a more information with the idea of problem solving. They know the dilemma they face with time and money. They approved of the timeline for reporting back to the Board and to the MTI Board.

    Discussion: Board needs to be assured that the tests are of value to teachers and kids as a wise use of time and resources. The Superintendent noted that the PLAA was developed purely to inform instruction and is totally separate from other categories of testing. The PLAA will continue to be given regardless of other testing that is done. Issue is how to do it consistently across the district. A single committee needs to be created between the district and MTI. There is a difference in timing about when to do kindergarten testing versus other grade levels. The district has looked at different models. One committee will be formed.

    Speaker for Joan Eggert, teacher at Huegel and PTCA board member, said the issue is one of equity and what Huegel has to offer versus those schools that have SAGE. Huegel did get an extra allocation for this year but there is still high class size. Their school tends to refer more kids to special education in first and second grades because there are no alternatives. Their school is at 33 percent FRE and they would like to see if there is a way to equalize the system.

    Discussion: Provide the current percentage of free and reduced lunch for Title 1 knowing that Title 1 has other factors and includes private school student counts. Additional support depends on budget cuts but will be considered. Law is site specific. Working to confirm with DPI in writing whether a contract can be moved from one school to another.

    Linda Smulka, kindergarten teacher at Muir, had two main issues relative to the assessments: 1) agreed to the pre- and post-assessments, loved the portfolios, and agreed that more time is needed for teachers to do it. Other issue is how much testing is being done at the kindergarten level and what kind of testing is appropriate. She stated that it feels overwhelming for the teachers and the children. Some of the questions are hurtful to the students' self-confidence and self-concept and limits instruction time. Some of the PLAA tasks are very frustrating. It is too much to do at the beginning of the year. She gave examples of "trick" questions in the book that is used for the PLAA. She asked why this book has been adopted. She felt that more meaningful data would be captured from the kindergartners in the spring after they have had some instruction. She asked that a way be found to pare down what is required at the kindergarten level and that better use be made of the time by teaching.

    Diane Esser, Primary Instructional Resource Teacher, disputed what was said about the book asking "trick" questions stating that students can respond in any way they choose and it would be informative to the teachers about what kids know about books. Many of the concepts are quite easy and appropriate for 4 to 5 year-olds showing which students are ready to start reading. The teachers should not be making the children uncomfortable with it but should just keep going on even if the answer is wrong; the student does not know if it is right or wrong. A Spanish version is available.

    Tom Krabby, district music teacher, was responding to a proposal that the specials loads are being raised to accommodate the testing. He stated that it is inaccurate to compare them to regular teachers, that their load is already exhausting and teaching is suffering. Among his colleagues, this proposal has sparked great concern and fear. There is little or no time to prepare and instructional time is being lost. Students will be robbed of opportunities to perform. Travel time has to be factored in. Many kids will see more than one music teacher. Planning time is precious. They wonder how they will get time to do their student assessments.

    Janet Morrow, Huegel, supported the SAGE program but stated that the district has been shortsighted regarding distribution of programming. Resources should follow the children. The neediest population is the most mobile. SAGE is immobile and should follow the population it was intended to serve. Cannot accept the argument that SAGE is not transferable. The district needs to consider if SAGE should be allowed to continue as is. She distributed a copy of the district equity policy (a copy is attached to the original of these minutes).

    Bill Keys left the meeting at 7:10 p.m.

    Susan Robertson noted that needs are changing at Huegel that require significant attention. The extra allocation they received is not enough. Kindergartners are coming in more needy. Remedial work will be needed and Reading Recovery. There is not additional programming, there are no volunteers to train and organize, the safety net is not there. Kids are teaching other kids. Transferring SAGE is an ugly suggestion; should look at how other supplemental pools are distributed. Teachers and kids are being affected. She asked that all three of the non-SAGE schools be re-evaluated.

    Gary L. Stout, kindergarten teacher at Allis, also supported getting more time to administer the PLAA. Supported the idea of having a committee make recommendations. His biggest concern was how developmentally appropriate it is. Kindergartners need more emphasis on social and emotional skills rather than testing.

    Michelle Alswager, as a new parent of a kindergartner, did not understand why SAGE could not be transferred to needier schools and how funds would be allocated. She asked for the committee's support in working with the state to get the program changed and get to a more equitable situation.

    Joan Eggert, parent, wanted people to commit to SAGE at the time of the last referendum. The student population has changed at Huegel resulting in a higher percentage of low-income children than some of the district's current SAGE schools. She wanted the administration to handle the issue and make it more equitable across the district. She had been given information from DPI that SAGE could be transferred. Ms. Eggert was asked to share the name of her contact with Jane Belmore.

    Discussion: Need to address some of these issues if the district wants referendum support. In the first year there was no indication that SAGE would be frozen by the state. Will have to fight to keep SAGE in next year's budget. SAGE is something the republicans are looking to cut out.

    Sue Perry, brought her language arts assessments notebooks. She was heartened to hear that the PLAA should not be considered in the same category as other tests but felt that, as a teacher, because they need the data, it creates more urgency. She hoped the committee would address the issues, including how often the PLAA should be administered. She wanted the committee to address teaching vs. testing time. She supported using compensatory time for adequate, valid tests.

    Mary Rasmussen, elementary general music teacher, reminded the Board that specials allocations were already increased in 1999. Class sizes at 21 will max out the teachers. She disputed a statement made about same-service delivery if the specials had 30 kids at a time. Covering classroom kids during assessments is hidden in the SAGE report. She hoped the Board would not go that route. She was also concerned about general music and strings being a choice school by school and did not think the standards could be met at 4th and 5th grades; it would not serve all children. Special needs children would not be able to participate and it would be very divisive.

    Michelle Hatchell, art teacher at Mendota, also spoke to the issue of combining SAGE classes for specials. Taught in Chicago and stated that such a change would result in going from child-centered teaching to safety-based teaching. It would devastate the efforts of the whole school and would not work. She did not want to see Madison go down this road.

    Written registrations included 14 in support of adequate time for PLAA and PMA testing and 2 in support of re-evaluating the assignment of the SAGE program.

    Follow Up: Get an official declaration from DPI relative to their position on SAGE programming. Cost out an approach for what can be done to make the schools more equitable for next year.

  1. Assessments of the District's Elementary School Students

    (Packets included background information, including expenditures, impacts, suggestions for responding to concerns, priority status, effectiveness, and service delivery (3/12/03). A copy is attached to the original of these minutes.)

    Ms. Belmore referred to the information provided in the packet and noted that there have been many discussions around assessments and their importance to instruction and some changes have been done to cut down on the number of questions. They are still being analyzed to pare down the questions and look at the technology format. There is a willingness to work with people on a committee. The information provided a history and listing of expenditures. People are running into roadblocks using existing resources that can be taken up with the committee that is formed. The committee will have to grapple with the issues of how much time is enough, budget issues, knowing the huge impact that would be suffered if the quality of the tests is compromised. The Superintendent stated that not doing these assessments is not an option. Ms. Belmore referred to the schedule of testing windows.

    Follow Up: Form the committee and report back to this Board committee by May 1, 2003. Include in the committee charge a more extensive analysis of kindergarten testing in response to the concerns raised during the public appearances.
  1. Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) Evaluation

    (Packets included a status report on SAGE dated 3/13/03. A copy is attached to the original of these minutes.)

    Jane Belmore distributed a revised status report on SAGE (a copy is attached to the original of these minutes). She reviewed the changes that were made. She reviewed the background information from the report. Highlights: the research results are confirming that it makes a big difference for all students but mostly for low-income students, the district-based research really reflects that conclusion, all students made gains whether full-day or block- scheduled, there are concerns about how the Department of Public Instruction plans to rewrite the SAGE Guidelines. The block plan is currently serving 87 percent of the district's K-3 low-income students and a requirement to have SAGE all day in classes of 15:1 would reduce that percentage to 38.

    Discussion: A demographic shift has taken 4 percent of low-income students out of that mix. The district is fighting to keep the block. The district cannot afford and would not have sufficient space to put everyone in a full-day program but the data supports doing that. There was some discussion about self-funding issues at Allis and Glendale.

    Tim Potter presented the SAGE program evaluation data (a copy of the presentation is attached to the original of these minutes). Highlights: only looking at 2001-02 school year, very little difference between full-day and block SAGE scheduling, big difference between SAGE block and non-SAGE, effects stay with the children through college, having to show the Legislature that all the benefits do not occur in just K-1.

    Discussion: Financial and space issues involved with implementing SAGE at the three schools whose low-income levels have reached the SAGE level at Huegel, Orchard Ridge, and Sandburg. Uncertainty about how much help can be given to the three schools given the budget unknowns/constraints. Issues of equitable distribution of resources and agreement that resources should follow the students. Process for budgeting extra allocations for the three schools. Not in a position to commit to three schools at this time to the exclusion of all other budgetary issues. Anticipating demographic changes and moving fast enough to meet the parents' concerns. Message has been made clear to deal with the issue of inequities because of population shifts. May be some relief for Orchard Ridge and Sandburg in Title 1 status.

  1. Other Business

    No discussion.

  2. Adjournment

    It was moved by Shwaw Vang and seconded by Bill Clingan to adjourn the meeting at 8:35 p.m. Motion unanimously carried by those present.