Where are they now?
In our 2016-17 Annual Report on our Strategic Framework, released last July, we featured schools that are leading the way in developing our students’ academic skills, creativity, social emotional skills, confidence and cultural competence so that students graduate ready for college, career and community.
Fast forward to February 2018, when Madison Magazine visited Glendale to check in on the school’s continued progress for their “Special Report: Connecting to cultures.” Ketterer talked about the ways staff are building relationships with students.
Even at recess and in the lunchroom, teachers "are learning about students as people, not just a student who studies math, or a student who is good in reading. Having that kind of connection as a person makes a difference.”
The report goes on to describe the ways in which, across the district, our staff are working toward being more responsive to the cultural and language assets of all students and using related strategies to engage, challenge and build learner independence.
This comes to life each day in Kristin Konrad’s 5th grade class at Stephens. From their morning meeting to the classroom “jobs” students have, the relationships cultivated in Ms. Konrad’s class are among the building blocks for academic success. Read more about the work Ms. Konrad does in our November 2017 feature “Building Relationships and Partnering in Learning.”
In September, Shorewood Elementary School was designated a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School . This distinguished honor is awarded each year to a select group of schools from around the country that have achieved high levels of student achievement or made significant improvements in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups. The whole school celebrated with a parade and party, kicked off by the UW Marching Band. (Watch a video of the parade.) Says Principal Anu Ebbe:
"We have achieved this incredible honor because we have been very intentional in our efforts to fulfill the collective equity vision and goals described in our School Improvement Plan."
"Our Equity vision, Creating a Sense of Belonging for All Through Learning Partnerships, is built on a fundamental truth – that every single child is an asset to our school community and can achieve at high levels."
We integrate every child’s racial, cultural, and gender identity into our curriculum. We create safe spaces where kids can share about their personal experiences and discover the sense of satisfaction and value that comes from being true allies to one another. It is this combination of our intentional focus on equity and the individual along with a visible, daily commitment to the spirit of belonging that helps us create the climate necessary for high academic achievement."
Common Professional Learning
Guiding staff in developing the skills to become culturally responsive educators is a book by author and educator Zaretta Hammond, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. Staff in all of our schools, in addition to the district’s Central Office, are studying this book and engaging in long-term professional learning focused on becoming culturally responsive to gain insights into students’ cognition that allow for deeper learning.
Hammond calls culturally responsive teaching “one of our most powerful tools for helping students find their way out of the (achievement) gap.”
In part, it involves adults reflecting on their own identities and becoming aware of and rejecting any biases or assumptions they may have about students.
To illustrate what this looks like in action, in October we took you inside Tracy Warnecke’s 8th grade classroom at O’Keeffe Middle School in a piece we called “Building trust, breaking through.”
Five Priority Areas
Our district's strategy to raise achievement includes five priority areas aimed at providing the tools and resources schools need to be successful. Below you can read about examples of progress we've made in each area over the first half of the school year.
Area 1 - Coherent Instruction
This school year we began implementing our updated Advanced Learning Plan, which we revised over the summer to help us better identify and develop students – in particular African-American and Latino students – who may benefit from advanced learning. It is critical that we support not only students already achieving at high academic levels, but students who have the potential to achieve at high levels. We are also beginning to offer more Advanced Learning opportunities in the arts, music, creativity and leadership areas.
More specifically, we are providing professional learning opportunities to staff focused on how an anti-bias mindset will impact the identification of students; collaborating with middle school and high school counselors to better encourage students in underrepresented groups to enroll in Honors and Advanced Placement classes; providing guidance for differentiation, intervention and curriculum replacement; holding monthly coaching sessions and collaborative meetings between principals and their school’s Advanced Learning Specialists and more.
Our three-year Special Education Plan, too, began this school year with updates aimed at ensuring all students with disabilities are provided with high-quality instruction and effective special education and related services in the most inclusive educational environments.
One of the biggest changes is that we are now hiring special education staff earlier in the year than in the past, allowing staff more time to collaboratively plan for service delivery before school gets under way in the fall. And we are staffing schools proactively with extra positions before the school year begins to ensure stability and support for students with disabilities.
We are also providing more support to help staff collaborate on each student’s service delivery plan. We have done this by creating a comprehensive, sequential method to planning instructional design so that all aspects of a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) are successfully met.
Area 2 - Personalized Pathways
The first year of Personalized Pathways is in full swing in our four comprehensive high schools – East, La Follette, Memorial and West. Pathways students get a unique experience in which a theme – currently Health Services – is incorporated into all of their core classes. Experience “a day in the life” of a Pathways student Vivek Sivan.
In 2018-19, our high schools will invite a new cohort of 9th grade students into the Health Services Pathway. Read more in Wisconsin State Journal’s “Strong showing for Madison School District's 2nd Pathways cohort for fall 2018.”
In November, eight Personalized Pathways students from four high schools gathered together to travel to Nashville for "ambassador training," where they shared ideas about how to create a vision for student voice within the Health Services Pathway and thought about how to train the other ambassadors upon their return to Madison.
Through panel discussions and group activities they developed, the students determined how they want their voices to be heard and how to take on a leadership role to help with future Pathway implementation in our district.
We’re also working to launch our Early College STEM Academy in partnership with Madison College. The new program is designed to expand access to STEM fields especially for women and students of color, providing the opportunity to earn college credit at no cost. The Academy will begin next fall with 25 students from East and La Follette. So far, there have been 65 applications. You can read more about the STEM Academy in this February 2018 Madison Commons article “Dual-enrollment program aims to make STEM degrees more accessible and diverse.”
Area 3 - Family, Youth & Community Engagement
This school year, Mendota and Leopold Community Schools are in their second year of operating as Madison’s first two community schools. As such, the schools integrate programming like tutoring, food access, parent leadership opportunities and more directly into schools.
CUNA Mutual Group has committed to giving $500,000 over three years to help us transform two more schools into Community Schools in 2018-19. Read more in this December 2017 WSJ article, “Community schools open up buildings.”
¿Qué pasa en nuestras escuelas? ('What's happening in our schools?') is an MMSD sponsored Spanish-language radio program aired on La Movida 1480 AM & 94.5 FM (and streaming at lamovidaradio.com) during which Latino families can speak with specialists of various programs in our schools and learn how they can participate more actively in their children’s education.
This fall, several schools began working with Spanish-speaking students (in clubs or dual-language immersion programs) to develop and produce their own regular radio spots for the program. This group of fifth grade DLI students at Lincoln Elementary interviewed a teacher in their latest installment, which aired on Thursday, February 15.
Area 4 - Thriving Workforce
This year, we’ve hired more than 80 teachers of color, more than ever before. Diversifying our workforce is a key priority – but we also know that without first creating an environment that welcomes teachers of color, gives their ideas and voice influence, and ensures teachers of color feel valued and have a sense of agency, recruitment work will only go so far. Read about the recommendations that the Teachers of Color Advisory Group are working with the district to implement to improve the culture and climate in our schools and in the district for teachers of color.
One outgrowth of these recommendations is our new Equity Fellows professional learning community, a group of 16 staff selected from across the district who are charged with furthering the district’s vision for equity. With the help of the National Equity Project, our Equity Fellows are working to become more skilled at leading conversations among staff about race and equity and engaging in professional learning focused on eliminating racialized disparities in student success.
Area 5 - Accountability Systems
The City of Madison is growing. In this piece, The Capital Times highlighted how we are planning for this growth with an equity lens to ensure that our facilities equitably serve teaching and learning needs districtwide.
Our strategies aren't isolated to building capacity in areas of growth projected on our city's borders but, importantly, aim to invest in areas of Madison that have been historically underserved, like the Allied Drive area, which lacks a neighborhood school. We're going to be asking for your input on our recommendations and Long-Range Facilities Plan in the near future.
We're halfway through the process of planning our roadmap for the next five years
Now in our fifth year of our Strategic Framework, we are getting ready to set the direction for the next five years. We want to open up possibilities and explore opportunities that build on our successes and address our challenges.
Led by the Board of Education and Superintendent Cheatham, our “listening and learning” tour has held about 50 sessions since October to collect our community’s best ideas. (Read Madison365 column “Gathering ideas for MMSD’s Strategic Framework.”)
We asked you to imagine a future where we are celebrating transformative progress and then tell us how we got there. Throughout, we specifically focused on capturing voices that are too often marginalized. After talking to nearly 1,000 students, staff, parents and community members, we have summarized what we’ve heard to date and lay out next steps in this two-page summary. (You can read the full 18-page research report here.)