–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mark Moody
At the March 20th meeting, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Dr. Jen Cheatham explained her approach to “Leading for Equity,” the title of her presentation.
As she explained, she was not going to provide us with her usual update on the Madison Schools. Instead, she wanted to share her personal leadership story on how she has become a stronger leader in education, particularly in the area of equity. Dr. Cheatham said that her presentation was related to MMSD’s new strategic plan or framework which emphasizes a renewed approach to racial and gender equity. Copies of the plan were available to Rotarians after the presentation.
In her personal story, Supt. Cheatham spoke of her childhood growing up in greater Chicago and her subsequent years as a classroom teacher at the high school and middle school levels. From this, she chose to enter graduate school at Harvard because of her new interest in effecting instructional programs on a larger basis than an individual classroom.
There, her mentor of color helped her to see how her being a product of a white middle class upbringing could be used to power greater, larger and better programs that could address and improve on disparities in racial equity.
Last year she listened to over a thousand individuals of color: students, educators, community members and parents. An example of one of the things she learned from the parents was that they wanted less emphasis on remediation of underachievers and more investment in students learning in a different, more accepting atmosphere of instruction. This could lead to students feeling better about themselves and their abilities resulting in higher achievement levels.
It is this and other insights that are incorporated into the new Strategic Framework of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.
–submitted by Bob Dinndorf; photo by Moses Altsech
Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jen Cheatham (pictured at left with Club President Michelle McGrath) addressed the Rotary Club of Madison on September 7th. Her third Rotary address focused on how the Madison public schools are narrowing the racial achievement gap and meeting the financial challenges of the future.
Dr. Cheatham demonstrated progress toward narrowing the achievement gap by citing an improvement in early literacy of 6 percent overall. Within this number is a 12 percent improvement among African American students; 10 percent for Latino students and similar gains for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.
High school completion has markedly increased over the past two years from 78 percent to 80 percent. Within this, rate of graduation among African American students improved from 65.8 percent two years ago to 80 percent. Students with disabilities improved by ten percentage points.
Sixty new teachers of color have been hired, significantly more than in past years.
The plan for continued improvement rests on sustained focus on:
- Early Literacy, increasing services for English Language Learners, Students with Disabilities and Advanced Learners.
- Personalized learning pathways for high school students,
- Partnerships with parents, “Grow our Own” to continue diversifying staff
- Innovation for the future
The financial support of K-12 education in Wisconsin does not support the sustained focus on continued improvement. The MMSD has experienced less than 1 percent revenue growth for going on six years. Staff has been reduced 3 percent–120 positions. A similar reduction is forecast if additional resources are not available. The budget politics does not weaken the resolve of MMSD but does continue to impede aspirations toward closing the achievement gap. The November MMSD referendum offers one solution to the continued resource reduction but is not the sustainable solution.
Did you miss our meeting this week? Watch the video here.
submitted by Bob Dinndorf; photo by Mary O’Brien
Dr. 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 www.madison.k12.wi.us/framework.
Our thanks also to WisconsinEye for videotaping our program this week. You can view it HERE.