Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The MMSD Achievement Gap: A 105-million-dollar "Solution"?

The Superintendent of Madison public schools proposes to spend 105.6 million dollars over the next five years to close the so-called achievement gap between black and white students in the Madison Metro School District.

How Madison of him!

Behavioral support staff; parent liasons; zero-hour (early morning) classes for the laggards; tiered system of staff diversity training; summer learning program; integrating cultural relevance into the staff development program; and on and on with the jargon, in Superintendent Nerad’s proposal.

We haven’t seen education jargon thrown around like this since the “Success For All!!!” days of the Cheryl Wilhoyte administration of the early ‘90’s.

It’s easy for fat old curmudgeons like me to throw stones from the sidelines.  But the response to the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy from Nerad was so predictable.  Throw a huge amount of money at the problem (with no attendant accountability mechanism for the administrators) and institute hackneyed “educational” solutions.  No mention of attempting to adapt best-practices from other communities who’ve tackled this problem; no real innovation.  No mention of what engineers like to call “root cause analysis” of the problem.

Let’s just look at the staggering sum of money involved - $105.6 million over five years, with “only” $12.4 million in the first year.  Wouldn’t you think the greatest expenditure for a massive “change” program like this would come in the first year?  But, this is the new political paradigm: announce a bold program – either to cut or increase spending, makes no difference – and load all the real cost or saving into the back end of the program.

Ever since my years as a snarky broadcast commentator, I’ve decried the fact that of the 100 or so employees of MMSD whose annual salaries are in the six-figure range, NONE are teachers; ALL are administrators.

Kaleem Caire’s vision of the Madison Preparatory Academy as a first step toward closing the achievement gap really rocked the world of the local education establishment with it’s out-of-the-box thinking and fresh new approaches.  The powers-that-be pushed back hard, and THIS is what they’ve come up with?

I wonder what Caire could do with a hundred and five million bucks.


  1. "Success For All," I almost forgot this till you brought it up again..those were interesting times and the downfall of Cheryl..as a taxpayer I too have a stake in this folly and I call it that as how you described the Sups "plan" and its shortcomings is right on....I truly believe that we could forgo all of the jargon and just go back to the simple idea of accountability...you are a teacher, these are the things we want you to accomplish, you agree, we test, evaluate by an agreed to process that measures what we set out to do, and if it does not happen as designed, the teacher moves on and is replaced....does this cost additional dollars from what we already spend?...I don't know, but at least I know that people are being held accountable in the system to provide the expected service to the community...enough said...we ride!

    1. Seems like a HELL of a lot of money and jargon to me.

  2. But since it's only YOUR money, .........

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