We Must Close the Achievement Gap

By John Forester | September 29, 2014

State Superintendent Tony Evers and Mequon-Thiensville District Administrator Demond Means issued a joint editorial on closing the achievement gap, calling it “the most important issue facing education in our state.”

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Outgoing Rep. Kestell Reflects on Legislative Career

By John Forester | September 29, 2014

Representative Steve Kestell reflects on private school vouchers, school accountability, the Common Core and more in this reflective Sheboygan Press news article.  Definitely worth the read.

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Kestell Named SAA Legislator of the Year

By John Forester | September 25, 2014

Representative Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, was presented with the SAA 2014 Legislator of the Year Award today in Madison at the Fall Superintendents Conference of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA).

Shortly after Steve announced that he would not seek election to a 9th term in the Assembly, I wrote a few words on my blog to try and convey the respect that we hold for Chairman Kestell – respect for his advocacy for children, and for the way he conducted himself as an elected representative of the people.  I’d like to share those words again:

The SAA has worked with Chairman Kestell for many years.  And, while we didn’t always agree on education policy issues, we did understand and appreciate that he painstakingly weighed the evidence and made his decisions based on what he thought was the right thing to do for the children and the taxpayers of Wisconsin. That type of reasoned, deliberate approach will be sorely missed in the Assembly.   Steve Kestell is a great friend of public education.                                                                                  

We will miss him.

Enough said.

See SAA News Release.

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Evers: A Big Year for Wisconsin Public Schools

By John Forester | September 25, 2014

In his annual State of Education address, State Superintendent Tony Evers called it a big year for Wisconsin public schools. Educators are working on higher, rigorous new academic standards; better assessments; a new educator evaluation system; new investments in career readiness; and continued improvements in the state’s accountability system. He also introduced his Achievement Gap Task Force and the work to advance strategies to close achievement gaps and renewed a push to fix the state’s school funding inequalities through Fair Funding for Our Future.

Big year for Wisconsin public schools news release.

SPEECH: State of Education (prepared text).

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Burke: Public Schools Can’t Afford Voucher Expansion

By John Forester | September 23, 2014

Democratic challenger Mary Burke said yesterday that the most effective argument against voucher expansion in Wisconsin is the potential cost.  Molly Beck from the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the issue in this morning’s news article.

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Burke Answers SAA Survey Questions

By John Forester | September 22, 2014

Gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has provided written answers to the SAA’s survey questions.  You might also recall that earlier this month, Governor Walker’s campaign manager responded that the campaign would not provide written answers to the SAA’s questions.

Stay tuned.

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New Poll Confirms Guv Race is Tight

By John Forester | September 18, 2014

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker and rival Mary Burke were still close in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, though the latest survey found a shift as Republicans were more excited to vote than their Dem counterparts.

The poll found Walker and Burke tied at 46 percent apiece among registered voters. Among likely voters, Walker had the edge 49-46.

In last month’s poll, 47.5 percent of registered voters backed Walker, while 44.1 percent favored Burke, while among likely voters it was 48.6 percent for Burke and 46.5 percent for Walker.

Poll director Charles Franklin said the shift in enthusiasm could be attributed to several possibilities.

Eighty percent of Republicans in the most recent poll said they are certain to vote in November, compared to 73 percent of Dems and 69 percent of independents. In August, 82 percent of Dems said the same, while 77 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents were certain to vote.

Franklin noted Walker and Republicans have been pushing the GOP base to get engaged in this election since the last results were released.

“Likely voters have seen a real blossoming of Republican excitement, and that has helped Walker among likely voters,” Franklin said.

The sample also was more Republican than the last one. Among registered voters, 29 percent said they were Republicans, 28 percent said they were Dems and 41 percent identified as independents. That is the first time in 24 Marquette Law School Polls that Republicans had an edge among registered voters.

Among likely voters, Republicans had a 32-28 advantage over Democrats, with 38 percent saying they were independents. It was the fourth time Republicans had an edge among likely voters in the poll.

In August, Dems had a 4-point advantage among registered voters and 6 points among likely voters.

Franklin said that could be attributed to either an outlier survey or to a true shift among the electorate. He noted a growth in GOP partisanship across all geographic regions and other factors that make it less likely the results were an outlier.

Franklin said the next poll will help demonstrate if the shift in enthusiasm was a fluke or real movement in the poll. He did not say how many more polls would be conducted between now and the election, but said the surveys would start to focus more on likely voters with Nov. 4 drawing near.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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Back to School, and to Widening Inequality

By John Forester | September 18, 2014

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, is a polarizing figure to some.  However, I must admit that, even when I don’t agree with him, I find his analysis insightful and always worthy of consumption.

Recently, I stumbled across a blog post of his entitled, “Back to School, and to Widening Inequality”.  In it he discusses how the nation’s achievement gap between rich and poor kids is, not surprisingly, a reflection of the widening gulf between rich and poor families in this country, as well as our political unwillingness to direct enough school funding where it is needed most.

Reich concludes his post with the following:

Money isn’t everything, obviously. But how can we pretend it doesn’t count? Money buys the most experienced teachers, less-crowded classrooms, high-quality teaching materials, and after-school programs.

Yet we seem to be doing everything except getting more money to the schools that most need it.

We’re requiring all schools meet high standards, requiring students to take more and more tests, and judging teachers by their students’ test scores.

But until we recognize we’re systematically hobbling schools serving disadvantaged kids, we’re unlikely to make much headway.

Amen.  I’m sure many of you will agree that much of this column reads like a reference to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s standard created in the Vincent v. Voight (2000) decision regarding disadvantaged students.

We need to re-frame the conversation, in Wisconsin and the nation, to focus on creating good education policy based not on ideology but on what the evidence says is best for kids.

Thanks for listening.  Keep up the good fight.  The kids you serve deserve nothing less.

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DPI Submits Partial Budget Request

By John Forester | September 17, 2014

State Superintendent Tony Evers has submitted the first piece of his 2015-17 departmental budget request focusing on school safety and technology. He noted his request for school funding will come after Oct. 15, when new school aid numbers are released. He said it would propose making the school funding formula “fair, sustainable, and transparent” while accounting for meeting the needs of children with disabilities, English-language learners and those who are economically disadvantaged. It also will address the needs of rural schools.

See the Evers letter and partial DPI request here.

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School and School District Report Cards Released

By John Forester | September 16, 2014

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) announced today that report cards for Wisconsin schools and school districts show that the majority meet or exceed expectations for student achievement and academic engagement in the 2013-14 school year. Overall, 88.3 percent of schools and 98.1 percent of districts with accountability scores had ratings of meets expectations or better.

See the news release here.  A listing of district Overall Accountability Scores and Ratings can be found here.

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