To be a Madison teacher is to exist within a set of irresolvable tensions. Some of them are comic: when the copy machine breaks down four minutes before students arrive at your classroom, do you rush to meet them, or stay to unjam your papers? When concerned about your own health, do you commit to regular hydration and snacks or choose to remain on a tight diet to accommodate your bathroom schedule? Others are a matter of significant concern: how do you build a relationship with a student who doesn’t want to be present in order to achieve outcomes you are accountable for? How do you set aside regular time to assess your staff’s understanding of race to ensure they are meeting the needs of all students?
College students really are getting younger. This year, 26 students from East High School and La Follette High School spend their days taking classes at Madison Area Technical College’s Truax Campus. They are the first cohort of MMSD’s Early STEM Academy Program.
By the time they graduate high school in May of 2020, they will have not only earned their high school diploma, they will also have earned an Associate’s Degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) field. The STEM Academy is the result of an agreement between MMSD and MATC to create a dual enrollment program for high school students.
The Madison Community Foundation is issuing its largest grant ever at $1.1 million to support the community schools initiative in the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools will be matching the grant one-to-one through fundraising efforts and donations over the five-year grant period. “We’ve been talking for decades about how to improve the schools, we’ve put a lot of funding directly in schools. What I think is different about this is that it’s the whole community coming together...maybe we can really make a difference,” said Tom Linfield, the Vice President of Community Impact with the Madison Community Foundation
Hawthorne Elementary and Lake View Elementary will both be designated as community schools for the 2018-19 school year, joining Mendota Elementary and Leopold Elementary, which have been community schools since the 2016-2017 school year. Hawthorne and Lake View were selected because of their dedication to family engagement, potential community partners, and support from parents, staff and the administration, explained Community Schools Manager Aronn Peterson in a written interview.
The United States Education Department Office for Civil Rights investigated the Madison School District starting in 2014 and began conducting a compliance review in 2016. The Education Department found “statistically significant racial disparities in advanced placement enrollment at every district high school and such disparities were pronounced in the areas of math and science.”
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At issue is Madison School District compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, specifically, “whether the district discriminates against African-American and/or Hispanic students with respect to access, referral, identification, and selection for the district's Advanced Learner services.”
The Civil Rights Office also looked for discrimination in “access to foundational courses that are essential to prepare students to take rigorous courses and to provide them with the skills necessary for success in college and career.”
The Office for Civil Rights issued a letter on December 29, 2016, describing the results of their investigation. The letter was sent to Madison Schools Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham. The letter references previous Madison District actions to scale back its use of prerequisites for advanced high school courses, implementing instead a system of “recommended skills and experiences.”
According to the letter, MMSD “proposed to voluntarily resolve the investigation” by agreeing to implement new efforts to increase access to advanced learning opportunities for Hispanic and African American students. These efforts are detailed in a Resolution Agreement, which Superintendent Cheatham signed on October 21, 2016.
“You are brave,” “You are worth it,” “Breathe,” “Create;” these are a few of the uplifting words and phrases that adorn Mount Horeb High School’s new mental wellness mural. After witnessing the effects of mental illness on peers, a group of seniors at Mount Horeb High School wanted a to create a mural with the power to soothe, uplift, and give hope. Between March 19 and 23, Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) assisted 1,000 students, as well as many community members, in fulfilling that artistic vision. An official mural dedication will be held at the school on May 8. Lead artist Amy Zaremba was touched by the project’s overwhelming support and said the turnout of volunteers was “really amazing.”
“And the kids didn’t just come here and sit around,” Zaremba added.
Madison Board of Education candidates Gloria Reyes, Anna Moffit and Mary Burke appeared in early March for the South Side School Board forum to debate topics in preparation for the April 3 election. The forum was moderated by Taylor Kilgore from Simpson Street Free Press and Terri Strong from Delta Sigma Theta, and presented by the Cap Times, SSFP, Delta Sigma Theta Alumnae and Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Current school board vice president Moffit is being challenged for Seat 1 by deputy mayor Reyes. Burke is up for re-election for a third term and is running unopposed.
Long-celebrated local out-of-school program Simpson Street Free Press is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018 with several programs that connect students with the greater Wisconsin community. At their core, SSFP’s anniversary projects embody the mission that the organization has been promoting for 25 years—challenging achievement gaps through out-of-school, high-impact literacy training. “To celebrate, we will continue doing what we do best,” senior editor Taylor Kilgore said. “Write, publish, and spark academic achievement.”
Many of SSFP’s anniversary projects launched in 2017, and will continue to grow, overlap and connect in its anniversary year. The plan for 2018 is an enhanced focus on science, environment, art and history, Kilgore said.
The student body at Leopold Elementary School is one of the most diverse in the Madison Metropolitan School District, and the Leopold PFO is committed to serving the school in its full diversity by working to include parents and families of all backgrounds in the conversation. The Leopold PFO is designed to support connections between children at school and to parents at home, as well as making Leopold healthy environment for staff and students, co-president Lee Hayes said. This goal includes a wide range of action, from typical fundraising efforts, to facilitating out-of-school academic support for students, to renovating the staff lounge. “[By participating] we can really have an active impact on so many kids’ lives,” Hayes said. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the work done by the Leopold PFO is through h encouraging inclusivity and engagement with all families.
Bridging the Gap is an in-depth look at Madison’s racial academic achievement gap. This issue spans the city and touches almost every aspect of our community. The causes of these academic inequalities run deep and need to be addressed. Many schools are actively seeking solutions. But how well can these efforts narrow a racial academic achievement gap that is now built into the system?