Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Senate Bill 1 Public Hearing at the State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin January 27, 2015

Greetings Senator Farrow and the Education committee,

My name is Todd Alan Price, Director of Policy Studies at the National College of Education in National Louis University. As an Associate Professor in Educational Foundations and Inquiry I’ve had the opportunity to conduct some modest research in Chicago public schools and I was one of the research assistants on the original Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). I’m a parent in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

If we are students of history and policy, and I remain one of both I imagine, we should know that the punitive measures of No Child Left Behind set in stone an untenable political position that we as a nation could focus on greater “accountability” but ignore chronic underfunding, growing inequality and nagging poverty, as if there were not enough testing already. It is as if, as Congressman Fatah from Philadelphia was to say, that we tests kids in swimming but while some students have an Olympic sized pool, other kids have a pool with no water.

Since No Child Left Behind has largely failed, we as a nation, Wisconsin school officials, seem to be “Racing to the Top” or what I characterize as “running for the money”.

I graduated from Tremper High School. My children attend two great Kenosha neighborhood public schools, Grewenow Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary respectively. Roosevelt has an accelerated program that my oldest attends and my youngest is plugging along, making his parents proud, on a field trip today. My wife is now teaching as a substitute teacher and supporting the mission of the school district.

Which is to say my family and our Kenosha families have effective teachers, dedicated principals, caring support staff, and a school district that is focused on moving the curriculum forward, moving best practices forward, and improving student outcomes together. I know this as an educator who attends the teacher-parent meetings and support the community engagement events. As Reverend William Barber a great advocate for our public schools among other things says Forward Together.

Kenosha is moving forward, a great school district, and latest reports are that high school graduation rates are climbing. Yet poverty remains a nagging problem, and there remain struggles. The Kenosha School District voluntarily submitted to an audit a few years past. Two key findings from the audit:

Formative and summative data are not available to evaluate all courses taught, and data use for key functions such as planning, curriculum management, professional development, program evaluation, budgeting and facility management is not in place to improve the design and delivery of services that impact student achievement.

Evaluation processes have not been established to guide the district in adopting, implementing, and analyzing instructional programs for cost benefits or for their effectiveness in meeting the system’s desired outcomes for student achievement.

Now talking with a school board candidate, he bemoaned that the budget is tight and largely fixed, and it is very hard to put in place what this audit called. Which is to say audits are fine, yet AUDITING solutions require resources. As do children.

WE as a state should support promising initiatives such as co-teaching, universal design for learning, and we could be supporting school districts to improve their practice by examining new promising pedagogies, including flipped classrooms and blended learning. We could be investing in teaching as a career ladder, using teacher leader programs. Instead we are placing public schools under increasing audit measures.

S.B. 1 doesn't help move these measures forward much, nor help these schools much, it just seems to once again place more “accountability” on top of all of the other accountability mechanisms that teachers and principals and school board members are already laboring under.

If this committee, if this state government wanted to help children in Wisconsin’s schools, you could start by really supporting our neighborhood, public schools. There are so many ways, proven, to do this. Beyond SB 1 auditing, more funding really should be made available for professional development, to support teacher leaders, to grow universal design for learning, environments, and to create less completion, not more of it, through co-teaching, through flipped classrooms (why keep the information secret) and to acknowledge the value of blended learning. All of these measures work, they can move children incredibly forward, as my one time student Diana would say. This bill doesn’t seem to do that, but presents nonetheless, an interesting opportunity to discuss policy, as well as to review history.


Todd Alan Price

National Louis University

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