At the MUAE forum to discuss education for gifted and talented students, it was disturbing to hear one candidate, Maya Cole for Seat #5, talk about eliminating REACH as a way to trade money to keep Eastside schools open. I was bothered on many levels.
One; REACH was developed to provide one additional and desperately needed hour of planning time for elementary teachers. It is in this hour that teachers might differentiate curriculum or do hundreds of other necessary tasks to keep their classrooms going. This precious hour, one of about a total of five permitted during the work week, is a negotiated term or part of the Teacher Bargaining Agreement. Maya Cole is suggesting it be eliminated. If this were possible, simply by saying it —- is not a friendly gesture to teachers. This will not save money. A different method of providing for children during the negotiated hour of planning time would need to be developed. Claiming to know what would help teachers and then suggesting to take away their planning time is down right nasty. Elementary planning time is beyond necessary for teacher sanity and is is the very basic component of being a thoughtful and reflective teacher!
On a second level, this was a disturbing suggestion made at a forum where the main topic was gifted and talented education. The original intent of REACH, when developed in the early nineties, was to promote curiosity, creativity, problem solving, cooperative learning and about six other similar criteria. In many instances these key aspects of REACH have been lost, but I rather hear about returning to these ideals to promote the giftedness in every child than hear about eliminating the program entirely at a forum of this nature.
Respectfully submitted, Nan Youngerman
Veteran teacher, parent, Madison community member, member of Teacher Bargaining Committee, 1990 committee for Elementary Planning, 1990 Committee to Design REACH Program and WI Presidential Teacher of Excellence
I took the liberty of uploading one of Ms Youngerman’s publications (linked to her name) so all can see what teachers who are given the time and tools can accomplish.
Thomas J. Mertz
5 responses to “Nan Youngerman on REACH”
Cap Times endorses Cole
The Madison School Board’s makeup will change with the April 3 election. Its chief dissident, Ruth Robarts, is stepping down. So, too, is a quietly thoughtful member, Shwaw Vang, who has more generally sided with the board majority and the district’s administrators.
There are those who suggest that the entire direction of the board and the school district is at stake. That’s a stretch. Chances are that the next board will have a majority that is generally deferent to the administration and a potent minority that tends to challenge the administration to do better.That’s about as it should be.
Madison schools are essentially sound. But they are not improving at the rate that they should. And they are facing increasingly challenging budget shortfalls. Thus, a board that mixes those who want to maintain what is good about the schools and those who will be pushing for more accountability and progressive innovation holds the most promise.
Our endorsements in this year’s three contests for school board seats will look to achieve that mix.
We begin today with a strong endorsement of Maya Cole, who is seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by Robarts. Backed by Robarts, Cole is a solid progressive who has shown a willingness to spar with the district establishment. That upsets some defenders of the status quo, but our sense is that she strikes a mature balance between supporting sound schools and understanding the need to try new approaches in order to meet funding, staffing and curriculum challenges.
That maturity is the product of hard work by an active parent who admits to being something of a policy wonk.Cole ran for the board last year as a refreshing if somewhat green candidate and narrowly lost.
She’s back this year, with a far greater mastery of the budget, the strengths and weaknesses of individual schools and the potential for achieving dramatic advances in minority student achievement and programming for students of every race, gender, economic status or heritage.
Raised in a rural, low-income family, she recognizes the barriers that exist even in good school districts.
And the active member of the Diversity & Inclusiveness Coordinating Committee for the United Way of Dane County is determined to break them down once and for all.
Cole’s able opponent, retired teacher Marj Passman, shares many of Cole’s values. Passman’s an extremely well-regarded educator who proudly celebrates the greatness of Madison schools and we respect her for that.
Cole is more than willing to join in hailing what’s right about the schools, but she is unwilling to accept that this is as good as it gets. She simply does not believe that administrators in Madison have all the answers.
Cole rarely shows up without a stack of studies under her arm, and no one who has spent more than three minutes with the candidate doubts that she has read them. She’s also sought the counsel of teachers, education professors, think tanks and school board organizations.
With an eye toward what may be the most fundamental task of the new board that of selecting the next superintendent she has examined best practices for involving the community in the process. And she is committed to maintaining openness and promoting the involvement of parents, teachers and local officials.
In general, Cole comes at the issues facing the board and the district with a faith in the prospect that fresh ideas, an open budgeting process and cooperation with the community can go a long way toward gaining broad support for a district that is constantly struggling to find the resources necessary not just to maintain its strengths but to compete in an increasingly globalized environment.
When Cole takes a tough stand, it is usually based on core values; for instance, at a time when there is much talk among bean counters about closing east side schools, this former president of the Franklin-Randall Elementary PTO says, “The very last thing that we want to do is to close a school.”
Cole and Passman are both progressives. They are both deeply committed to public education. They would both bring strengths to a changing school board. But Maya Cole stands out as the candidate who would ask the tough questions of administrators, think outside of the box and, above all, seek to involve the whole community in forging great schools for the 21st century.
Marj Passman’s site lists Nan Youngerman as a supporter, so take her opinion with a grain of salt.
Truth in posting: I support Maya for school board.
Question: Would you as a school board member support a referendum to deal with the short fall that the district is currently facing? For example, Carol Carstensen’s version of a referendum.
Maya Cole’s response to referendum question (REACH)
I looked at the tape. I believe Maya said “look at” and definitely “did not say eliminate” REACH.
In his recommendation to the School Board, Superintendent Rainwater recommended increasing class sizes for Specials and REACH classes – “Increase class sizes in art, music, physical education, and Reach in K1 (by combining a class and a half) for all schools receiving SAGE above 29% and increase class sizes in art, music, physical education, and Reach in grades 2-3 (by combining a class and a half) for those schools receiving SAGE in K-3 all day” (Source: MMSD Superintendent’s Proposed Budget Changes – March 9, 2007, Item C-1). Savings estimate for this option forecasted to be: $860,548.
I also watched the video, and I heard Maya say that she wanted the district to take a closer look at Reach and consider whether cutting it back by half could be an alternative to any school consolidations. Considering this seems reasonable. How is a school consolidation not a more “unfriendly gesture to teachers” and a bigger disruption to students than cutting the budget for Reach by half?
If the practical purpose for Reach has become to provide planning time for teachers, then I think we need to carefully consider whether there’s any other way to provide this time. In light of the cuts under discussion, school consolidations and/or increasing class sizes for the elementary grades seem as though they have the potential for much more negative impact on teachers and students.
In terms of promoting “curiosity, creativity, problem solving, and cooperative learning,” couldn’t we come up with lots of ideas of how this could be done? If Reach has evolved in a way that it’s no longer meeting these objectives, then why not have a discussion about other possible ways to further these goals?