Friday, March 1, 2013

Communication from the State Superintendent

Guest Blogger ~ State Superintendent Tony Evers 
1. Budget – Evers Statement, DPI Summary
State Superintendent Tony Evers strongly criticized the governor’s 2013-15 budget bill, and called upon legislators to “reverse this budget’s continued defunding of public education.”
The DPI has created a “highlights summary” of the governor’s proposed budget. The summary only lists funding changes from the 2012-13 year (any funding which remains constant is omitted from the summary).
In an official statement to the media, Evers said, “Freezing revenue caps for our 870,000 public school students, undermining local control, and funding road construction at the expense of our kids is not a pathway to prosperity.”
In a time of budget surplus, Evers said, “There is enough state revenue growth to raise the revenue limit and hold the line on property taxes.”
He also noted the last two state budgets have “played favorites,” prioritizing funding for voucher schools while cutting spending for public school students.
While acknowledging satisfaction with the governor’s support for “the ACT assessment, data systems, student academic and career plans, and educator effectiveness program,” Evers said local schools now need resources to “make these efforts truly transforming.”
“I stand ready,” the state superintendent concluded, “to provide any support I can to make sure we don’t leave Wisconsin’s public school students behind for another biennial budget.” 
2. March is Middle Level Education Month
It’s just days away: National Middle Level Education Month, which originated in 1987 as a week-long celebration of the best ways to educate students aged 10-14. The National Association of Secondary School Principals provides numerous ideas for the month, including:
  • Having students share thoughts—in school podcasts, newsletters, local newspaper letters to the editor, etc.—on life at their middle school
  • Inviting families or community members for visits, or to shadow their student
  • Celebrating the luck of the Irish and the luck of being a middle level educator on Monday, March 18, by wearing green and posting staff’s declarations of “I’m lucky to work in the middle level because...”
  • Scheduling celebrations of student work, in-school or off-site—art exhibitions, science fairs, concerts, drama productions, etc.
  • Partnering with feeder elementary and high schools to highlight transition activities that get elementary students ready for the middle, and middle school students ready for high school
The middle level education movement is often considered as beginning with a 1963 lecture by Dr. William M. Alexander of Peabody College for Teachers. Later called “the father of the middle school,” Alexander wanted to give 10-14-year-olds a school that, among other things, featured individualization, flexibility in curriculum, and emphasis on character education. 
3. AP Participation, Success Increase in Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s 2012 graduates retained the state’s “Best in the Midwest” ranking for success on Advanced Placement (AP) exams and had a higher percentage of students taking an AP exam than the previous graduating class.
The College Board’s AP Report to the Nation showed about 30 percent of Wisconsin’s graduates took an AP exam. Of them, about 21 percent scored well enough to earn credit or advanced standing at most colleges and universities, saving an estimated $35 million in tuition.
“The AP program provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their college readiness,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said. “We should support efforts to make AP available to every student who wants the opportunity.”
Nationally, the participation rate was slightly higher than Wisconsin’s, but the success rate slightly lower. 
Over the last five years, it has become twice as common (now 11 percent) for students to request exam waivers for economic reasons. In that same period, students of color increased three percentage points (to about 18 percent).
Any student in Wisconsin can take an AP course at their school through the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative, a partnership involving Cooperative Educational Service Agency 9’s Wisconsin Virtual School, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Wisconsin eSchool Network.
4. NASA Reaches Out to Deaf, Hard of Hearing Students
Two weeks ago, Constance Gartner was sailing through the stratosphere, watching the luminescent dust of galaxies being born, and knowing the whole experience would help her engage more deaf and hard of hearing kids in STEM education.
Gartner, director of instruction at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD) in Delavan, was chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the first Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA).
She and three other teachers rode aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, a converted Boeing 747 jetliner outfitted with a powerful telescope. By flying a bit higher than a passenger jet, SOFIA escapes the obfuscating water vapor of Earth’s atmosphere, observing and recording information about distant stars that a ground-based observatory couldn’t see, in a more cost-effective manner than a space telescope (like the Hubble).
“I would have always considered myself an extreme lightweight when it comes to physics,” Gartner admits. “But when it comes to bringing in deaf and hard of hearing kids, so under-served in the STEM areas, that’s where my expertise comes in.... NASA wants me to engage this population.... I’m exceptionally humbled to have been chosen.”
WSD has long worked with the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, using astronomy to engage deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The school was encouraged to apply for SOFIA because of that work.
Back on the ground, her mission is to help teachers better understand and explain astronomy to DHH kids—at WSD and elsewhere.
She’s curating online resources about the topic—so far, on her school’s Wiki and a board on Pinterest.
Crucially, she will impart her new understanding of NASA’s work to teachers. American Sign Language has no words for some of the specialized vocabulary of astronomy and astrophysics, so teachers need to deeply understand the material to explain it effectively. However, because many have been trained primarily in teaching DHH students, their content knowledge is often broad rather than deep.
On the all-night flights, Gartner marveled at the perfect stillness of the flying telescope’s images, only occasionally marred by sideways, “hyperspace”-ish streaking when the plane turned.
WSD students will get to work with the real data and images from Gartner’s voyage, such as when the scope trained on the star-birthing Orion Nebula. “On the plane ... once the image was processed the telescope operators, although they were speaking in German, I could tell they were obviously excited. So I looked over their shoulder and I could see the dust and gas of galaxies, it was really cool.
“I’m going to show these images to kids. We have some imaging software ... that will allow us to use different colors, etc., to show the birthing of galaxies.”
Educators can apply to be 2014 Airbone Astronomy Ambassadors at – after March 1, 2013.
5. Teacher Stress High, Satisfaction at 25-Year Low
Job satisfaction among American teachers is at a 25-year low, while stress levels are at historic levels, according to the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher.
Just 39 percent of teachers in 2012 said they were “very satisfied” with their jobs, and 51 percent said they were under “great stress” several days a week or more.
Elementary teachers were much more likely to report great stress (59 percent) than middle and high school teachers (44 and 42 percent).
The last time teacher satisfaction was comparable (at 40 percent) was in 1987.
Stress has not been measured every year, but the last time it was measured during a period of low job satisfaction (44 percent “very satisfied” in 1985), only 36 percent of teachers reported so much stress.
The high water mark for teacher satisfaction was 2008, at 62 percent.
Dissatisfied teachers were more likely to work in schools where budgets had been cut or where students were low-income or low-performing. Mid-career teachers were most likely to be dissatisfied and young teachers the least likely.

1 comment:

  1. I much appreciate the thoughts of Dr. Evers.

    He is a level-headed guy--who has done a masterful job managing the state divisiveness brought on by Act 10. Evers and his team have also worked hard to navigate the destructive NCLB legislation, while still campaigning for the fair funding necessary to help all of Wisconsins' kids succeed.

    While I do not agree with all the work done by DPI, I recognize that Dr. Evers is a moderating force for public education in these erratic times.

    I appreciate you sharing his thoughts and welcome further feeds from him.

    -Steve Strieker


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