It’s About Time

Last week, Milwaukee’s year round schools began their school year. Most other schools will begin their school year on September 3rd. A state law bars public schools from beginning their school year before September 1st. The mandate has nothing to do with education but rather the tourism industry’s desire to get as many days in August for family vacations.  Schools can request an exemption for special circumstances. Thus two MPS International Baccalaureate high schools, King and Reagan, will begin their school year on August 12th. Their rationale is that IB tests are given in spring, and students need the time…

How Beneficial is Early Childhood Education?

The whole idea behind Head Start is to give children from lower socioeconomic families the benefits that middle and upper income families have when it comes to a rich educational environment.  While critics of Head Start agree that the program does appear to help lower-income students in their early years, gains from Head Start are wiped out as these same children advance in age. Supporters of Head Start argue that early childhood gains would continue if these lower-income children were given the same benefits as they advance in age. In other words, lower-income students could benefit from intense educational support…

The Courage to Fail

What made Thomas Edison so remarkable was not that he had a high IQ nor that he scored above average on an achievement test. Edison’s real genius was he had the courage to fail and believed he would ultimately succeed. Edison tried countless materials as filaments in the creation of the light bulb, rejecting those that failed until he found a filament that worked. Edison learned as much from his failures as he did from his successes.  From the title of Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, the first thought might be to anticipate math and reading teaching strategies, maybe…

Academic Success Requires Grit

Which cadets are most likely to be successful in graduating from West Point, and which cadets wash out? As it turns out, the answer is not to be found in incoming cadets’ SAT scores, their high school ranking, I.Q. or any of the normal measurements we usually associate with academic success. The answer is GRIT. Individuals high in grit do not swerve from their goals even in the absence of positive feedback. Gritty individuals stick with the task at hand; they don’t give up.  When they fail, they pick themselves up and try again. These are the findings of Angela…

Here Comes Tuition Tax Deductions

Lost in the controversy over school vouchers in the Wisconsin state budget battle is the idea of giving income tax deductions for parents who send their children to private schools. Parents could receive tax deductions up to $4,000 for elementary students and $10,000 for high school students. The cost to the state could reach $30 million dollars. In the short run, the impact of the tuition tax deductions will have far greater impact on education than the proposed extension of the school voucher program. How private schools react to parents receiving these deductions will expose the real motivation behind these schools.…

Principal Musical Chairs

Next year, Milwaukee’s Bay View High School will have its fifth principal in four years. Pulaski High School will have its fourth principal in four years. Principal changes are taking place at all levels of the district; the greatest changes are taking place on the high school level. The previous Milwaukee superintendent, William Andrekopoulos, was criticized for rarely removing ineffective principals. Now the present superintendent, Gregory Thornton, is removing principals at a breakneck speed. Some recent principal changes are a direct result of the new state bargaining law which impacts salaries and benefits. Many school employees are retiring in order…

Voucher Schools Discriminate Against Students With Disabilities

Look for some voucher schools to close. That is because these schools discriminate against children with disabilities, and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) is ordering Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to enforce the law. In its April 9 letter to State School Superintendent Evers, DOJ outlined violations within the Milwaukee Parent Choice Program (MPCP). Some voucher schools do not provide necessary services to special needs students, deny admissions, and if enrolled, force these students out of their programs. The Feds are ordering Evers to enforce federal laws. Evers doesn’t disagree with the findings, but he isn’t sure what authority he…

Board Diversity

Four years ago the Milwaukee School Board was made up of six white males, only one woman, and no Latinos. In fact, the board was less diverse than it was two years before that when the board had five white males, two women, and one Latina. Today the school board looks a lot closer to the makeup of the district’s student population. Only two white males are left on the board. (I’m one of them.) Four members are now women. Four are black. Through redistricting, the board created a predominantly Latino district, and we once again have a Latina board…

Heidi Ramirez and the Challenge of Camden Schools

No sooner had Milwaukee School Board Director Mark Sain and I sat down to eat breakfast at a national school board convention in San Diego than we were peppered with questions from members of the Camden, N.J., school board. They were looking for a new superintendent, and Heidi Ramirez, former Chief Academic Officer for Milwaukee Public Schools, is one of the finalists. That Ramirez would apply for the Camden position makes a lot of sense. Camden is across the river from Philadelphia where Ramirez served on the school board appointed by Governor Ed Rendell. In Philadelphia, she was director of…

Journalist Rips Present Voucher Accountability

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Alan Borsuk always tried to give the impression of objectivity. Strong supporters of public education often found his articles bending over backwards to say good things about the school voucher program. Every once in a while, Borsuk would go after the fly-by-night voucher operators. Recently, however, Alan Borsuk took the gloves off at a panel discussion on choice and charter schools hosted by the “Fourth Street Forum.”(Program #1110, March 29, 2013) “I have run out of patience…” said Borsuk commenting on the voucher program. “We need to eliminate the bad schools in the voucher program, and…