Why have they taken the fun out of kindergarten?

Kindergarten was designed as an introduction to schooling, and one that should help children discover that learning can be fun. But many believe that kindergarten has become the new first grade, and that pressure on schools to demonstrate student progress, even at the kindergarten level, has led schools to take the playfulness out of kindergarten. This week, Wisconsin Public Radio examined this issue by interviewing Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin, who says that heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the research is showing that those opportunities for kids to have those times to play, those times to engage with others, are diminishing specifically to engage in academic instruction,” Brown said.

And this trend is not only exhausting for children, it has resulted in some teachers leaving the profession because they no longer feel like they can do what they love.

“They miss the opportunity to engage with kids in a more playful manner, to be able to follow kids’ interests, to be able to pursue a project that kids want to learn more about, rather than being told what to teach and when to teach it and how long to teach it,” Brown said.

Read more and listen to the podcast:

Professor: Playtime Dwindling In American Kindergarten Classrooms

Today’s kindergarten classroom is much different from even that of 20 years ago. Heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning, says Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin.

MTEA President Kim Schroeder Reacts to Proposed $90 Million Cut to Proposed K-12 Budget: Our Students Will Suffer

MTEA President Kim Schroeder speaks to a crowd outside the Milwaukee Joint Finance Committee public hearing on the two-year state budget, where overwhelmingly public education supporters demanded a per pupil increase for K12 funding (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

MILWAUKEE – June 6, 2017 – Today the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) president, Kim Schroeder, released comments on Assembly Republicans’ alternative budget proposal that would cut $90 million from the Governor’s already modest K-12 budget and reduce the per pupil funding by $50 per student.

The following statement can be attributed to MTEA President Kim Schroeder:

“Since Walker’s Act 10, Wisconsin students have experienced the greatest cuts to public education since the great depression. The decision to disinvest in public education has resulted in severely understaffed and under-resourced schools, not just in Milwaukee but across the state. From Milwaukee to Shawano, educators are supplementing a significant portion of their classroom materials with funds from their own pockets.

“Wisconsin students and educators cannot suffer one more cut. In a district with over 75,000 students, reducing the Governor’s budget proposal by $50 per student would result in $4 million less to spend on resources that have a direct impact on our students.

“All children have the right to attend fully funded public schools with professional educators, class sizes small enough for one-on-one attention, libraries, safe playground equipment for recess, current technology and textbooks. Every Wisconsin student, regardless of their zip code, needs Wisconsin legislators to commit to at least $200 in per pupil.

“Budgets are about choices. Over and over again we heard parents, educators, and community members testify in support of increased funding for public schools. We call on state legislators to choose our children in this state budget and fully fund our public schools with a minimum of $200 in per pupil funding.”

For over 50 years, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association has been a champion for public education in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association represents over 4,600 educators and support personnel who make Milwaukee’s public education system possible. MTEA, an affiliate of the National Education Association and is the largest educator local in Wisconsin. Learn more at mtea.weac.org.

Statement from the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) can be found here.

Public education advocates painted a banner in February calling for the full funding of public schools in Wisconsin (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).



MPS Students Collaborate on Performance of “The Wiz”

Students from Rufus King Middle School, Golda Meir, and Story Elementary are performing in “The Wiz” this week at RKMS (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Classrooms from around MPS were treated to a brilliant performance of “The Wiz” Wednesday morning at Rufus King Middle School. The students of RKMS, Golda Meir and Story Elementary collaborated to make it happen. Check out these photos from their performance.

Photo slideshow below:

RKMS & Golda Meir Students Perform "The Wiz"
There will be a public showing on Friday at 6pm at Rufus King Middle School.

Tickets are $5.00, and can be purchased at the door (121 E. Hadley Street – enter on the Palmer Street entrance). Please come out and support the Rufus King International Middle School Generals, Golda Owls and Story Gators. This is what collaboration looks like!


Make MPS a real “Sanctuary School District”

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As educators we know that schools should be safe places for ALL students. Yet, under the Trump administration, our students and their families are living with the fear of being torn apart at any moment.
MTEA is joining with our students organized in Youth Empowered in the Struggle to defend against attacks on immigrant communities. We are gathering signatures in support of a school board resolution that would make MPS a sanctuary district.
As a sanctuary district, MPS will not:
• Cooperate with ICE
• Allow ICE on school premises
• Share students’ confidential information.
PetitionA resolution put forth by school board directors Larry Miller and Tatiana Joseph will be before a school board committee on March 23. If it passes committee the resolution will move to the full board meeting for a vote on March 30, so please be prepared to attend this meeting in support.
If  you are interested in circulating a petition in support of the proposed resolution you can download the petition tear off card  or sanctuary petition and return sign copies to the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association office located at 5130 W. Vliet St. or the Voces de la Frontera office located at 1027 S. 5th St.
You can sign a petition in support below:





MTEA Welcomes Educators at Green Bay Avenue to our Union!

Photo: Joe Brusky

Photo: Joe Brusky

In November, news broke that Universal Academy–a non-instrumentality charter school brought into MPS under former Superintendent Gregory Thornton–was closing 2 of its schools.
MPS converted the campus on N. 8th St. back into Green Bay Avenue, a traditional MPS public school and welcome students and families from both closed universal schools.
Over the next couple of months, nearly 100% of the educators organized at Green Bay Avenue to become members of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and have been working tirelessly to improve teaching and learning conditions at their school.
On January 11, 2017 MTEA President Kim Schroeder awarded them with the Sid Hatch Outsanding School Leader award for their advocacy on behalf of MPS students!
Welcome to the MTEA, Green Bay Avenue!
MTEA president Kim Schroeder presents leaders at Green Bay Avenue School with the "Sid Hatch Outstanding Building Leader" award at a recent union representative assembly.

MTEA president Kim Schroeder presents leaders at Green Bay Avenue School with the “Sid Hatch Outstanding Building Leader” award at a recent union representative assembly.

Two WEAC members helping develop new computer science standards

Two WEAC members are on a state committee overseeing development of new computer science standards for Wisconsin schools. Among the members of the State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council, which will oversee the Computer Science Standards Writing Committee, are Heather Mielke of Elkhorn, Math Teacher, Burlington High School; and Lisa Sanderfoot of De Pere, Computer and Information Science Teacher, Valley View Elementary School, Ashwaubenon School District.

From the Department of Public Instruction

A panel of Wisconsin experts representing classroom educators, school leaders, and higher education are drafting standards for computer science as the next step in a process to define the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn in that subject during their PK-12 public education.

Computer science standards are the first set of standards that are being developed using Wisconsin’s new standards review process. The process began last August with a public comment period on the need and expected outcomes for computer science standards. The State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council examined those comments and recommended that Wisconsin develop academic standards for computer science.

In authorizing computer science standards development, State Superintendent Tony Evers said, “It is critical that our schools keep pace with changes in what citizens and employers expect from our students and how we teach that material. The technology sector continues to grow in Wisconsin and with that comes an increasing demand for people prepared to work in computer science and related fields. To better meet those needs, the state must provide standards to align how we teach computer science to our students.”

Academic standards, like those being developed for computer science, are a defined set of knowledge and skills that students are expected to know and be able to do. Standards set goals for teaching and student learning that help teachers plan curriculum and develop classroom lessons. In Wisconsin, all state standards serve as a model. Locally elected school boards adopt academic standards in each subject area to best serve the local community.

The Computer Science Standards Writing Committee is working on a set of academic standards that span all grade levels. A draft of the Wisconsin Academic Standards for Computer Science will then be available for a period of open review for feedback from the public, key stakeholders, educators, and the Legislature.

“Rigorous, clearly written academic standards are an important part of setting expectations for what our kids know and learn,” Evers said. “The standards review process gives the public a way to share their thoughts, resulting in a set of standards that reflects Wisconsin’s expectations for its students.”

State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council

  • Mike Beighley, District Administrator, Whitehall School District
  • Kim Brown, Director of Learning, Oshkosh Area School District
  • Rep. Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Jill Gaskell of Blanchardville, Member, Pecatonica School Board
  • Anne Heck, Principal, Lake Geneva Middle School
  • Jenni Hofschulte of Milwaukee, Parent, Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Stephen Kolison, Associate Vice-President for Academic Programs and Educational Innovation, University of Wisconsin System
  • Howard Kruschke of Roberts, President, St. Croix School Board
  • Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, Wisconsin State Senate
  • Heather Mielke of Elkhorn, Math Teacher, Burlington High School
  • Carrie Morgan, Associate Vice President, Wisconsin Technical College System
  • Joseph Moylan, Principal, Oconomowoc High School
  •  Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon,Wisconsin State Senate
  • Desiree Pointer-Mace, Professor, Alverno College, Milwaukee
  • Chris Reader, Director of Health and Human Resources, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
  • Lisa Sanderfoot of De Pere, Computer and Information Science Teacher, Valley View Elementary School, Ashwaubenon School District
  • Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, Wisconsin State Assembly
  • Connie Valenza, District Administrator, Platteville School District

Report says Wisconsin ranks ‘very poorly’ for Head Start program

Wisconsin is one of 18 states that rank “very poorly” for instructional support in the federal Head Start program for children in poverty, according to a report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

pupils_at_school_300pxHead Start, the report says, varies dramatically from state to state in funding, classroom hours, teacher qualifications and compensation, observed quality, and enrollment.

“Such differences arise, in part, as local programs have been forced to triage limited funding,” the report states. “This report’s findings underscore the need for greater coordination between Head Start and state and local government agencies to build high-quality early learning programs with widespread reach and adequate funding.”

In Wisconsin, Head Start enrolled 14,847 children during the 2014-2015 program year – about 10 percent of the state’s low-income children under age 5, on par with the national average of 10 percent. Federal funding per child exceeded the national average for Early Head Start (EHS) serving infants and toddlers but lagged behind the national average for Head Start (HS) serving 3- and 4-year- olds, when adjusted for cost of living. Instructional support was below the research-based threshold for effective learning, while emotional support and classroom organization exceeded the threshold. Head Start program teachers earned substantially less than teachers in public schools. Specifically:

  • EHS funding per child in Wisconsin was $12,773, exceeding the national average of $12,575; HS funding per child was $7,663, below the national average of $8,038 when adjusted for cost of living.
  • 15 percent of children enrolled attended Head Start for at least 1,020 hours per year – far below the national average of 42 percent. New standards will require at least 1,020 hours per year of programming by August 2021 to provide children enough time to make strong development gains.
  • Percentage of HS teachers holding a BA or higher is slightly above the national average – 74 percent in Wisconsin, compared to 73 percent nationwide. Percent of EHS teachers with a BA was just below the national average, at 29 percent in Wisconsin, and 30 percent nationally.
  • HS teachers with a BA earned $35,354, and EHS teachers earned $33,845, compared to $54,535 for teachers in public schools.

Head Start is a federally funded, locally administered comprehensive child development program that provides early education and support services to children and families with household incomes up to 130 percent of poverty by federal standards (about $33,000 for a family of four). Head Start serves children ages 3 to 5, while Early Head Start serves infants and toddlers.

Many Head Start programs collaborate with child care and public preschool programs to serve eligible children, including children of migrant workers and tribal families.

The State(s) of Head Start report is also the first to report on Head Start classroom quality by state. Across the country, Head Start teachers demonstrated an ability to provide emotionally supportive environments, and the majority of states also scored well on classroom organization. However, programs in just two states, Kentucky and Vermont, could be determined to score above a research-based threshold for effective instructional support. Eighteen states – including Wisconsin – scored significantly below this threshold. The report also finds variation in teacher qualifications, compensation, and turnover that can create problems for providing effective programs.

The report shows that Head Start programs are not uniformly funded at levels adequate to ensure a high quality learning and development experience and attract and retain qualified teachers while providing all the required services. Large differences in funding between states remain even after accounting for differences in the cost of living between states.

NIEER estimates that federal funding falls $14 billion short of what would be needed to serve all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in high- quality Head Start programs for 1,020 hours per year (at an average of $10,000 per child). Early Head Start is even further from the funding levels needed to fulfill its expressed mission. Although Head Start grantees are expected to raise 20 percent of their total budget from non-federal sources in the form of financial or in-kind donations, these added resources do not make up for the gaps in the federal funds needed to adequately pay teachers to deliver the expected quality and hours of services.

NIEER’s findings highlight the need for renewed attention to meeting the needs of young children in low-income families in every state.

For more information on the State(s) of Head Start and detailed state-by-state profiles on quality, duration, access, and funding, visit www.nieer.org.

Read NPR summary:

After 50 Years, Head Start Struggles With Uneven Quality

For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families and their children. But new national research, out today, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

Elementary teacher preparation programs showing ‘positive signs of growth’

college_classroom_300pxElementary teacher preparation programs have shown ‘positive signs of growth’ since 2014, according to a new review of 875 programs, issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

“Some programs prepare teachers whom parents would love to see in front of their child’s classroom,” the review concludes. “Too many others graduate teachers who still need substantial assistance and experience before they are truly ready for the position they now are authorized to fill. Since 2014, programs have made gains in a few key areas, but still have far to go in others.”

Compared to its previous release in 2014, the NCTQ said programs overall showed “positive signs of growth,” especially with regard to teaching reading. For example, it noted, more programs now include all five research-proven elements of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The percentage of programs that require each element individually also has increased.

The NCTQ noted “strong progress” in these areas:

  • Programs are doing a better job teaching reading instruction. Since 2006, NCTQ has focused on early reading instruction more than any other issue. Now we found the number of programs teaching research-based reading instruction is up to 39 percent, a sharp rise from 29 percent in 2014.
  • Half of all selective programs also report diverse enrollments, showing that diversity and selectivity can go hand in hand. These 113 programs are recruiting new cohorts of teacher candidates who are more racially diverse than the institution at large or the state’s teacher workforce.

NCTQ President Kate Walsh stated that, “When programs improve, the big winners are of course future teachers and the children they will one day teach, but also the programs themselves. They are showing a willingness to change to better meet the needs of public schools. Programs that adopt an evidence-based model of teacher preparation are leading the way for others to follow.”

Despite these gains, undergraduate elementary teacher prep programs still have far to go, the report said, particularly in preparing elementary teachers in mathematics. The weak preparation of teachers may help to explain the low performance of the US in the latest round of PISA testing announced this month, with 36 nations ranking higher in math. Only 13 percent of the teacher prep programs have coursework covering the essential math topics every elementary teacher is expected to teach.

The report said only one quarter of the programs (26 percent) are sufficiently selective, generally admitting only the top half of college goers. However, a number of programs are taking it upon themselves to adopt tougher standards. At institutions lacking strong admissions requirements, the number of undergraduate elementary teacher prep programs which independently require at least a 3.0 GPA for admission has increased from 44 in 2014 to 71 today.

Other areas where the report said programs can improve include:

  • Elementary Content – Only a tiny percent of programs (5 percent) require aspiring teachers to be exposed to the full breadth of content needed to teach the elementary curriculum, including literature, history, geography, and science. For the most part, programs either fail to require any courses in the content or allow candidates to select courses from a long list of electives, many bearing no connection to the content taught in elementary grades.
  • Student Teaching – Student teaching serves as a capstone experience, offering teacher candidates a chance to learn and practice under the guidance of a veteran teacher. However, only 5 percent of programs incorporate the elements of a quality student teaching experience. The vast majority of programs (around 93 percent) accept cooperating teachers suggested by a school district, without knowing much about that teacher’s effectiveness or mentoring ability.
  • Classroom Management – New teachers, in particular, find classroom management consistently challenging. But still less than half of all programs (42 percent) give candidates sufficient feedback on their classroom performance.

Another former Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, now President of the University of North Carolina system, also commented, “These findings serve as reminder to me and my colleagues in higher education that we have a tremendous obligation to our public schools and future teachers. We must and can do better.”

This Review only analyzed undergraduate programs preparing elementary school teachers. Over the next two years, NCTQ will release updated ratings for undergraduate secondary, graduate and nontraditional elementary, graduate and nontraditional secondary, and undergraduate and graduate special education programs.

Read the entire report:

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Eau Claire’s Yvonne Novak recognized for involving students in Holocaust research project

Eau Claire South Middle School Principal Dianna Zeegers (left to right), Literacy Coach Lana Leonard; Social  Studies teacher Yvonne Novak, and GT Coordinator Colleen Morgan are working with students on the Holocaust research project.

Eau Claire South Middle School Principal Dianna Zeegers (left to right), Literacy Coach Lana Leonard, Social Studies Teacher Yvonne Novak, and GT Coordinator Colleen Morgan are working with students on the Holocaust research project.

A WEAC member’s classroom project to gather information about how the Holocaust was reported locally in the 1940s has caught the attention of local media.

Eau Claire South Middle School Social Studies Teacher Yvonne Novak has involved her students in a project sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Americans from all over are doing research and looking at how the Holocaust was reported in everyone’s communities,” Novak told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

About 30 students have volunteered to work on the project, and several said they are learning about the events surrounding the Holocaust earlier than many students and at a much deeper level. In addition, they like the fact that Eau Claire is being represented nationally as part of this important project.

Novak, a member of the Eau Claire Association of Educators (ECAE), told the Leader-Telegram she appreciates that the project allows her students to learn methods of research by exploring primary source documents, and said the project has led to deeper engagement from the students.

Read the entire article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Poring over newspapers to research the Holocaust

While paging through a book that binded together copies of old newspapers in McIntyre Library’s archives, an article caught the attention of eighth grader Chris Jahnke. Published in UW-Eau Claire’s newspaper The Spectator, the article was entitled “Hitler – The Perpetual Menace to World Peace.”


Co-teaching can benefit students and teachers as well

Sauk Prairie reading interventionist Claire Fallon believes in co-teaching. “Research has shown that even just a different person restating what the first person said can help increase learning in students,” the WEAC Region 5 member says in an article this week in the Sauk Prairie Eagle.

Fallon, who teaches at Tower Rock Elementary School, says co-teaching can benefit all students but also helps her grow as an educator while building trust and communication with other teachers.

“Each teacher comes with their own set of tools in their toolbox,” she says. “With co-teaching we get to share our tools. And I have a very full toolbox.”

The Eagle article quotes Grand Avenue Elementary School Principal Craig Trautsch saying co-teaching also benefits teachers by providing an extra set of eyes.

“We have such a diversified student population that one way of trying to explain something or connect with a student doesn’t always work,” Trautsch said. “Having that second teacher there can make a difference in whether a student understands something or not.”

Another benefit, he said, can be found when a teacher may be absent, requiring use of a substitute. “You don’t have that transitional part for the students because the other teacher can step in and lead.”

Read the entire article in The Eagle and wiscnews.com:

Teachers share duties, learn from one another in the classroom

Two heads are better than one. That old proverb sums up the co-teaching movement utilized in some Sauk Prairie School District classrooms, and it’s become a philosophy for Tower Rock Elementary School reading interventionist Claire Fallon. “Research has shown that even just a different person restating what the first person said can help increase learning in students,” she said.