Moving the Needle Toward Better Education

submitted by Bob Dinndorf; photo by Mary O’Brien

Jen Cheatham 8 26 15Dr. Jennifer Cheatham provided an “annual report” in her third Rotary presentation since becoming superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in April 2013. Her 2015 appearance was special in that it was her first since becoming a member of the Rotary Club of Madison, she announced to generous applause. The Strategic Framework developed by the Madison Board of Education and staff, focuses on systemic improvement in our urban school district, the key to which lies in development, instructional alignment and coherence at every level of a school system aimed at achieving breakthrough results in student learning. Goal 1 of the plan includes milestones such as proficiency in reading and mathematics in grade 5. The lyrics, “reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmatic” from the 1907 song “School Days,” proclaimed by songleader Brad Hutter remain relevant today.

Though still early in the journey toward every school becoming a thriving school preparing every child for college, career and community, there is clear progress to report. Elementary schools continue to make major progress, with nearly 10 percentage point gains on all measures over two years and improvements for almost every student group, including Latino students and African American students, since work began on implementation of the strategic framework begun just two years ago.

High school graduation rates continue to move in the right direction, up for almost all student groups, and with pockets of accelerated results. At LaFollette High School, the four-year graduation rate for African American students increased to 75.3%. Memorial High School was also cited for dramatic improvement on critical measures. Our schools and the community will continue to progress by maintaining sustained focus on the day-to-day work of great teaching and learning. It is easy for educational institutions to become distracted by continually lengthening the list of innovations. The Strategic Framework and results can be found at

Our thanks also to WisconsinEye for videotaping our program this week.  You can view it HERE.

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