Wisconsin State Journal: Midway through the first semester, a top-down directive to strengthen learning by teachers building deeper, more trusting relationships with and between students is playing out in classrooms throughout the Madison School District.
“Strong, authentic relationships are crucial to our work,” said Superintendent Jen Cheatham, who set the districtwide focus. “Achievement gaps can persist in part when there is a lack of the safe community and support to engage in challenging and meaningful work.”
The push is seen as especially important for students of color, whose test scores as a whole lag far behind white students’ academic performance in the district. Helping them get ahead may require teachers and administrators to take a step back, in a sense, as they focus first on breaking down walls to let learning happen.
“Kids aren’t going to be able to take risks and push themselves academically, without having a trusting support network there,” said Lindsay Maglio, principal of Lindbergh Elementary School, where some teachers improved on traditional get-to-know-you exercises in the first few weeks of school by adding more searching questions, and where all school staff are engaged in community-building lessons in small-group sessions with students taking place at set periods throughout the year.
While noting that getting to know their students is already “something we do feel strongly about,” fourth-grade teacher Beth Callies, now in her 11th year at Lindbergh, said she saw value in a districtwide strategy emphasizing it. “It’s a good push to remind us,” Callies said.
The Cap Times: A partnership between the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison College seeks to increase the number of girls and students of color who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Early College S.T.E.M. Academy is set to start next fall. The initial pilot will recruit a total of 25 juniors and seniors from Madison East and La Follette high schools.
The program will expand to up to 200 students across MMSD and find its home at the new MATC south campus by the 2019-2020 school year. The program will be free for MMSD students.
Students accepted into the program for the 2018-2019 school year will take classes at MATC’s Truax campus. Although the program targets girls and students of color, all MMSD students are eligible to apply.
Participating students will earn college credit and have the opportunity to receive their associate’s degree by the end of their senior year. MMSD will start recruiting for the academy this fall. The district said it would release applications for the academy this fall, with a December deadline. MMSD will interview students in January and inform students of their admission status in February 2018.
At Monday’s Madison School Board meeting, some board members feared that the current admission requirements — a minimum 2.5 GPA, 90 percent attendance rate and meeting all course requirements in ninth and 10th grade — would turn away many of the students the program aims to serve.
“What happens if you have a student who is brilliant in S.T.E.M. but happens to be homeless or caring for a sick relative and does not have a 90 percent attendance rate?” board member Nicki Vander Meulen said. “I don’t want to necessarily leave them out solely based on that.”
The Capital Times: After 13 years of dual-language instruction, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s first class of graduates walked across the stage this spring with Wisconsin’s new Seal of Biliteracy, certifying their mastery of a foreign language during high school.
Forty-five students from Madison La Follette High School earned the seal of biliteracy in Spanish. All of the students were a part of the first class of 50 kindergartners at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School’s dual-language immersion program. The majority of the cohort continued with the DLI program at Sennett Middle School and followed the required course of study at La Follette to earn the seal.
Starting next school year, students across the district will have the chance to earn the biliteracy seal with their high school diplomas. With the expansion, MMSD expects the number of qualified students to expand exponentially.
The seal of biliteracy was created by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in partnership with several national organizations that champion bilingual education. Wisconsin is one of 27 states to offer the seal to graduating seniors. According to DPI guidelines, the seal certifies that students, “demonstrated achievement in bilingualism, biliteracy and multicultural competence in and through two or more languages.” MMSD is one of three Wisconsin school districts so far, including Verona and Waukesha, to offer the seal of biliteracy to graduates.
Wisconsin State Journal: Thirteen-year-old Alyssa Anderson isn’t quite sure where she’ll be at noon on Friday, since Madison students have no school that day.
But wherever she is, she’ll probably be Googling.
Alyssa, a seventh-grader at Wright Middle School, is Wisconsin’s finalist in this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition, a nationwide design contest run by the search-engine giant since 2008.
The national winner, to be announced online around noon Friday along with four runners-up, will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 technology award for their school, a trip to Google headquarters in California and other prizes.
“It’s been amazing. Everyone has been encouraging me and telling me they’re rooting for me,” Alyssa said of the process of entering and advancing in the contest. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed.”
DPI: State Superintendent Tony Evers nominated eight public elementary schools for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which recognizes overall academic excellence or progress in improving student achievement.
The 2017 nominees are:
Mountain Bay Elementary School, D. C. Everest Area School District, Weston;
Robinson Elementary School, Laona School District;
Shorewood Hills Elementary School, Madison Metropolitan School District;
Oriole Lane Elementary School, Mequon-Thiensville School District;
Elmwood Elementary School, New Berlin School District;
Phillips Elementary School, Phillips School District;
West Salem Elementary School, West Salem School District; and
Washington Elementary School, Whitewater Unified School District.
“The Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for solid student academic achievement,” Evers said. “Our public school nominees provide a safe and supportive learning environment where young people can build a foundation for future academic and life success. I wish our nominees well in the next phase of the Blue Ribbon School process.”
Madison.com: On a recent Friday morning at Madison’s O’Keeffe Middle School, nine students gathered in a circle to reflect on their experience. Some shared their happiest memories during the three years while others described challenges they faced. They also shared what their goals for high school were and where they see themselves in ten years.
“I enjoyed the fun field trips we had, it brought everyone together and made us closer,” one student said.
“In ten years I see myself at the UW-Madison or University of California in Berkeley,” said another.
The activity is called a restorative circle, an aspect of restorative justice programs. Actual restorative justice programs are closed to reporters, so O’Keeffe set up a mock circle to illustrate how they work. Students’ names were withheld to protect privacy.
Restorative justice is a popular practice nationally, if not globally, to resolve conflicts and repair harm caused by criminal behavior or wrongdoing. The practice has been implemented in jails, prisons and schools, including the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Madison Magazine: As a freshman at East High School, Ivan Lozada found the traditional learning environment challenging. He simply couldn’t concentrate. Plus, he says “certain classes catered to certain kids,” which he felt did not include him. His parents noticed a change in him too—something he describes as “going into a dark place.” Yet one teacher recognized Lozada’s work ethic and recommended him for the Alternative Education Resource Options program through the district’s Innovative and Alternative Education program. He checked it out and enrolled, and eventually landed an office job at Goodman Community Center, one of Innovative and Alternative Education’s fifty program partners.
Although that job wasn’t the right fit for him, Lozada returned to East High School and eventually found something that suited his interests through the school’s Work and Learn program. As a junior, he landed an apprenticeship with Smart Motors, another IAE partner. He graduated this January and is attending Madison College’s auto technician program. Last semester he went to school daily, worked every day for credit, attended night school once a week and helped out at the family’s bakery. While traditional schooling was not his thing, hard work was.
Work and Learn is one of six core programs offered through IAE at eight different sites throughout Madison. The IAE has 364 students across all programs, but historically that number grows in the second semester and can hit five hundred.
As the only Latino high school principal in the Madison Metropolitan School District, East High Principal Michael Hernandez takes lessening the racial achievement gap that has plagued Madison schools very seriously.
“We still need to build trust and we still need to repair relationships,” Hernandez told Madison365. “I had lunch with a group of students today, and we were talking about ways we can develop student leadership in our building. We need to find ways to engage all of our parents and get people in the door. Because of some of the poor experiences they’ve had in the past, they just don’t want to come to school – not for the lack of love or support for their child.”
Hernandez really gets the issues that MMSD is facing right now and has been working for years to support students, bridge gaps and to be a pioneer in education. Earlier this week, Centro Hispano acknowledged his work by announcing that he was the 2015 recipient of the Roberto G. Sánchez Award which honors an individual, group or organization that has demonstrated leadership in advancing educational and career opportunities for Latinos.