Contradictions & Confusion: Madison Prep Board Members in Their Own Words

Tyrone Davis, “Can I Change My Mind” (click to listen or download)

Children should NOT be sitting, waiting in an auditorium, to find out if they won a lottery to get into a school. A right to a good education should be like the right to clean water.  And, since when, did teachers become the demons?

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings on “Waiting for Superman.”

Of course  Madison Prep wants the media opportunity of children waiting in an auditorium, some advocates for the school have demonized teachers, the Madison Prep Board has decided that the only way to make the school happen is to employee non-union staff and not pay them for the extended day and year (that they are also seeking  African American and Latino staff, makes this even worse).  It should also be noted that school choice backers like the Kochs, the Waltons and  (Bradley and Koch funded) ALEC aren’t all that  keen on “the right to clean water” either.

I don’t think it’s right to be admitting a large number of students who can’t do the work and then flunking them out.

J. Marshall Osburn explaining why he sued along with the Center for Equal Opportunity for the release of the University of Wisconsin’s affirmative action admissions records

Well that sounds a whole lot like the Urban Prep model of valuing college admissions over learning and college prepardness, which has been repeatedly held up by Madison Prep advocates as a model of success.  Although I detest  the use that was made of the records, I would also like to note that I think UW should have released the records (with personal information redacted) and used the opportunity to educate about why affirmative action in admissions is a necessary and positive practice.  Openness and transparency in public and tax supported institutions is essential.

But where the 4K argument really starts to lose traction is when you consider that there is no solid evidence suggesting that universal preschool programs lead to long-term improved educational outcomes for children….

If you’re still in doubt, and think universal 4K is the solution to our education ills, ask yourself this: When is the last time you heard someone say, “You know what would solve our education problems? One additional year of unionized public schooling.” Given the track record of our public schools over the past forty years, it is completely reasonable to be skeptical that million dollar per year universal 4K programs in Wisconsin will lead to any measurable long-term educational gains for our children. And while preschool can have non-educational positive effects for children, is funding that the taxpayers’ responsibility…. or the parents’?

Torrey Jaekle, opposing 4K, demonizing teacher unions, dismissing non academic aspects of schooling and calling for skepticism and research-based educational policies

I happen to think quality 4K and teacher unions are good and things and the worth of the first is well established, but those aren’t the relevant issues.

Both the “Business Plan” and marketing campaign for Madison Prep repeatedly invoke non-academic goals, this can especially be seen in the “Core Values” section of the Business Plan” (starting on page 50).  I agree, I think schools should be about more than improving test scores, but Jaekle apparently doesn’t.

I’m also a skeptic and believe in research-based policies, which is a big reason that I oppose Madison Prep.  The evidence supporting their educational plan is thin or non-existent.  Two quick examples.  First on sex segregation,  the evisceration of Madison Prep’s “research” by Janet Hyde was devastating (it is a must read).  As Nathan Comp reported in the Isthmus “It [ULGM] says science does support gender-specific learning but was unable to provide Isthmus with any empirical data underlying this element of its model.”

Second, on the International Baccalaureate (IB),  I have been looking at research on IB in non-selective and semi-selective schools and in programs targeted to low income students.  I’ll get that written up eventually, but there isn’t much there to recommend IB as a strategy for addressing achievement gaps and the needs of struggling students.   There is however much that calls into doubt Madison Prep’s attrition projections (IB programs have big attrition numbers, especially in 10th and 11th grade) and their assertion that 100% of their students will fulfill the IB Diploma requirements is laughable.   All the links on this when I get it written up, meanwhile on the achievement gaps, some quotes from a report by the Denver Public Schools:

There is no available evidence that the IB will increase student achievement in DPS schools or that the IB has had a positive effect on student achievement in similar districts or schools. A thorough search of the literature has netted no empirical studies on the effects of IB on student achievement….

[T]he model is not proven to improve student achievement in schools with low-income populations, to narrow the achievement gap, or to bring  low-achieving students up to proficiency in reading, writing or mathematics.

There is no doubt in my mind that the research supporting 4K and quality early childhood education is far superior to the research supporting Madison Prep.

So from abandoning improvement of public schools in favor of choice that serves few students, to embracing models that send unprepared students to college, through ignoring research while planning an educational program, you can see why I’m confused by these people’s support for Madison Preparatory Academy  and willingness to serve on the Board of Directors.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under Best Practices, education, Gimme Some Truth, Local News, Quote of the Day, Uncategorized

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