Spotlight on Locals: Holmen Education Association

Members of the Holmen Education Association gather to accept the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate certificate from WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

The strength of the Holmen Education Association was obvious as a large group of members gathered at Holmen Middle School; many were proudly wearing their Holmen EA shirts, made possible through a grant from WEAC Region 4. When I interviewed HEA President Lisa Risch, she made it clear that the local association has been busy advocating for its members and finding success.

According to Lisa, “The Holmen Education Association shares positive news broadly because we know that having visibility is so important. Every month, a benefit slip is given to both members and non-members that shows both NEA and WEAC discounts in addition to sharing our local’s most recent success stories.”

Lisa meets monthly with the District Administrator to discuss topics brought forth by members. Through these conversations, the HEA has been able to enact positive change on topics like handbook language relevant to membership. The association has made steady progress on difficult issues by finding a middle ground on behalf of students.

Tracy Dobkoski, Vice President of the HEA, manages the group’s Facebook page, which most recently posted information about the National Board Certification and the supports that are available. Tracy contributed her personal experiences about what these supports have meant to her as a professional and how they have helped her be an even better educator for her students.  The HEA has also made members aware of other professional supports offered by WEAC Region 4, highlighting the course offering called Love and Logic. “We need to share all of the opportunities that are available to our HEA members.”

When I asked Lisa about her advice to other locals, she said, “Doing positive work in your community is so important. The HEA values education and giving back to our students. We typically sponsor three to four scholarships for graduating seniors, sponsor the clean-up of the local bike trail, and HEA most recently voted to donate $1,000 to the building of the Holmen Community Center.”

She also told me that they take time to bring people together not only through meetings but also through social events. “By engaging in many conversations at events and by listening to our members and potential members, we are able to get our colleagues to join with us. Our voices are being heard.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Little change in Wisconsin’s NAEP scores

From the Department of Public Instruction

Reading and mathematics results for the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, remained steady in Wisconsin compared to prior years, with fourth-graders overall at the national average and eighth-graders just above the national average for both subjects. 

Average scale scores for 2017 fourth-grade reading in Wisconsin were 220, a decline that is statistically significant when compared to the 2015 average score of 223. The state’s 2017 reading results for fourth grade are statistically the same as the national average scale score of 221. For eighth-grade reading, state students had an average score of 269, which is above the national average of 265.

In mathematics, the average scale score in fourth grade was 240 for Wisconsin compared to 239 nationally. At eighth grade the average mathematics scale score was 288, which is above the national average of 282. Gaps in achievement are apparent across racial and ethnic groups and for students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and students learning English and their peers. 

“Wisconsin’s NAEP results, and those of the past decade plus, show how desperate the need is for us to work together to close opportunity gaps for our kids,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “As our population continues to diversify, we cannot afford to leave large numbers of our students behind their peers and expect the Wisconsin economy to continue without disruption.” 

Administered last spring to approximately 3,300 fourth-grade students and 3,100 eighth-grade students in Wisconsin public schools, NAEP is largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Nationally, about 143,400 students were tested in grade four reading and 137,200 in grade 8. The national sample was approximately 144,000 for fourth-grade mathematics and 140,200 for eighth grade. This was the first year NAEP fully transitioned to digitally based assessments. The NAEP reading and mathematics scales range from zero to 500. 

Read more (opens pdf of complete DPI news release).

‘No-excuses’ charter schools could do more harm than good, analysis finds

“No-excuses” charter schools – which promote strict disciplinary policies, longer school days, and intensive academic tutoring at the expense of the arts and physical education – could do more harm than good, according to a new review by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

“While supporters of ‘no-excuses’ charter schools say these practices improve student achievement, they fail to acknowledge the potential negative effects these practices have on students, teachers, and families,” according to the report.

The Think Twice report disputes an earlier report by Princeton University and the Brookings Institute claiming that practices found in “no-excuses” charter schools could help close the achievement gap, especially in low-performing schools. Think Twice reviewers Joanne W. Golann, an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, and Chris Torres, an assistant professor of K-12 educational administration at Michigan State University, conclude that the original report had several flaws and should not be used to inform education policy or as a tool to expand “no-excuses” charter schools and policies.

The Think Twice report noted that several studies have demonstrated the “no-excuses” practices can negatively impact a student’s socio-emotional development and later success. “Many ‘no-excuses’ charter schools have harsh, disparate discipline policies that can result in suspensions or expulsions for violations, no matter how small,” it says.

The Think Twice report says:

  • “No-excuses” schools aren’t a one-size-fits-all approach to turning around schools; and there is no solid evidence to back up claims that “no-excuses” disciplinary policies are the core reason for these schools’ success.
  • “No-excuses” schools have higher than average teacher turnover rates due to concerns about workload, long hours, and the “no-excuses” model itself.
  • Policymakers, education leaders, and other decision-makers should pause before expanding “no-excuses” schools and polices.
  • Policymakers, educators, and researchers need to work together to address and understand the impact of the “no-excuses” model before expanding it to other charters or even traditional public schools.
  • We need to embrace culturally relevant educational practices that support equitable and fair learning opportunities for all students and ensure students can learn in a safe environment.
  • Educators should focus on all aspects of student growth – including academic and emotional and personal growth – rather than only focusing on academic achievement to measure student success.

Find out more at the Great Lakes Center website.

WEAC mentors provide invaluable support to National Board candidates

National Board candidates and renewal candidates attended a support session on Saturday, April 7, at the WEAC building in Madison. The event was free and open only to WEAC members, who served both as mentors and students. Attendees said the support and guidance they received was invaluable as they progress through the demanding and rewarding National Board process. Find out more about WEAC’s National Board resources at weac.org/NBCT.

Below are comments posted by some of the mentors on the Wisconsin National Board Certification group on NEA edCommunities.

Spotlight on Locals: Janesville Education Association

Dave Groth, President of the Janesville Education Association, proudly displays the new Janesville Education Association T-shirts as Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President, presents the JEA with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Recognition Certificate.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I visited Janesville Parker High School and sat down with Dave Groth, President of the Janesville Education Association, we talked largely about the goals set by the JEA. Dave discussed how the JEA has worked systematically to achieve its goals over the past few years. It’s clear that WEAC’s strong local affiliates establish goals for the school year and long-term goals for the next few years; they put plans in motion for attaining those goals and then evaluate their progress. The Janesville Education Association has been making excellent progress toward meeting its goals.

First, Dave mentioned the new salary schedule that they put into place for this year which removed merit-based pay attached to the Educator Effectiveness evaluation system. “Our new salary schedule is based on professional development hours and years of experience in the district instead of a merit system,” Dave said. He highlighted how this salary schedule was developed with the input of the JEA and how he worked with administration to be a part of the district’s five listening sessions where these changes were shared with teachers.

Dave outlined some of the changes in the salary schedule, including a starting salary of $42,000 and movement in the first two years to put educators’ pay at $46,000. “It is important to attract new people to our school district, but we also want to retain them with a faster progression through the salary schedule,” he said. Now, Janesville teachers can move through their salary schedule with professional development hours or credits taken through an accredited college or university.

Another victory in the pocketbooks of teachers in Janesville is that the JEA has been able to hold the line on insurance costs. For the upcoming school year, there will be no changes in insurance costs.

Another major goal of the Janesville Education Association over the past three years was to elect education-friendly candidates to the local school board. Currently, 8 out of 9 members on the school board were endorsed by the JEA.

When I asked him about advice to other locals, Dave said, “Your key is school board elections. We have been able to develop a trusting relationship with our school board members and our district administration. When things happen in the district, our voice is at the table, and we are providing input.” It’s obvious that this has been very important to all educators, students, and families in the Janesville community.

The Janesville EA has other goals that it is working toward. Dave mentioned work that needs to happen on retirement benefits and the association’s continued efforts on maintaining relationships. But, the JEA remains focused and redirects its energy on making positive changes that matter. Dave indicated that the role of the JEA has always been one of helping and assisting. The Janesville Education Association helps students every day, helps members and potential members with their professional needs, and helps administrators with challenging situations. The JEA continues to be a strong voice and strong advocate for students, the community, and the education profession; it is another example of a WEAC Strong Local Affiliate.

Dave pointed out, “While we don’t have the leverage we once did, creating a friendlier environment that is working in the spirit of cooperation is making a difference for us.”

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

WEAC Election Update: State, local results – and what’s next

Election results
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 21 years of experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace and support for public education. Dallet will be seated in August. Voters also decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. And they approved the five largest school referendums in the state.

WEAC members in their communities worked within their districts on several of the referendums, including the Beloit Turner referendum that is reported to have lost by just two votes.

WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade social studies teacher, credited the work educators are doing to raise awareness about how the politics of recent years has hurt students and schools. “The pendulum is swinging back to restore Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” he said. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students.”

Referendums
Voters supported 55 of 66 local school referendums — 83 percent — in Tuesday’s election, indicating communities are supportive of their public schools and willing to step up to fund them to make up for what the state has cut over the past few years. The passage rate is up from the fall elections, where 70 percent of referendum questions were approved, and the spring 2017 elections where 62 percent of referendum questions passed. Tuesday, the five largest referendums in the state all passed:

  • Chippewa Falls, $65 million
  • C. Everest, $60 million
  • River Falls, $48 million
  • Sparta , $32.5 million (two referendums)
  • Plymouth, $32 million

Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes.

A new law will benefit 13 of the districts with successful operating referendums, which are now eligible to receive a low revenue bump via an increased revenue ceiling for the next three years. That’s funding that can be used to improve student opportunities, hire educators and increase pay. The districts are:

  • Adams-Friendship
  • Almond-Bancroft
  • Benton
  • Ellsworth
  • Howard-Suamico
  • Kiel
  • Manitowoc
  • Markesan
  • Merrill
  • Mondovi
  • Randall J1
  • Shullsburg
  • Westby

See the complete list of school referendums here.

School Board Elections
Members of our local associations also recommended candidates in several school board elections, supporting candidates who support public school students.

Up Next: Special Elections
This is a big year in Wisconsin elections, and we’re already watching the next races shape up. After the governor was forced by the rulings of two judges to hold special elections in open Legislative seats, a field of candidates is coming forward. In Senate District 1 (Northeastern Wisconsin), Republicans Alex Renard and Andre Jacque have stepped forward. In Assembly District 42 (Southcentral Wisconsin), Democrats Ann Lloyd and Nicolas Schneider have announced their candidacies, along with Republicans Spencer Zimmerman and Jon Plumer. A special election primary election is set May 15, with the special election slated June 12.

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Judge Rebecca Dallet wins Supreme Court race

Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 10 years of judicial experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace, and support for public education as a core value. Dallet, who won with 56% of the vote, will be seated in August.

Voters also overwhelmingly decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. The vote to eliminate the State Treasurer’s Office was 61% to 39%.

“The pendulum is swinging back to Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students. Next up are June’s long-awaited special elections in Senate District 1 (eastern Wisconsin) and Assembly District 42 (south-central Wisconsin) and then the important November General Election, which includes the governor’s race.”

Wisconsin educators recommended Rebecca Dallet for the Supreme Court based on her qualifications including 21 years of experience on the bench, another sign that voters are soundly rejecting the Scott Walker agenda, Martin said. “Social studies teachers like me join voters across the state in taking the first steps to returning to three separate branches of government and Democracy,” Martin said.

Also on Tuesday, voters decided 66 local school referendums, and results indicated voters were overwhelmingly supportive of spending for public school improvements. The five largest referendums in the state passed – $65 million Chippewa Falls, $60 million in D.C. Everest, $48 million in River Falls, $32.5 million (two referendums) in Sparta, and $32 million in Plymouth. Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes. With results of 50 of the 66 referendums in, voters approved 45, or 90%, of them.

Read more:

Bice: Gov. Scott Walker a big loser among 5 takeaways from Wisconsin’s spring election

Here are a few quick thoughts on Tuesday’s spring general election results: 1. Gov. Scott Walker got the message – loud and clear: The biggest losers in the state on Tuesday were the St. Louis Cardinals ( walk-off homer by Ryan Braun), the Boston Celtics ( swatted away by Giannis) and Walker.

Rebecca Dallet beats Michael Screnock in race for Wisconsin Supreme Court

MADISON – Rebecca Dallet bested Michael Screnock Tuesday for a seat on the state Supreme Court, shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election. It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.

Wisconsin voters choose to keep state treasurer’s office

Wisconsin will continue to employ a state treasurer after voters rejected a call to eliminate the position Tuesday. Republicans said the position is unnecessary, but backers argued it is an important check on other elected officials. Elimination of the office of state treasurer.

Under court order, Walker schedules special elections to fill vacant legislative seats

After losing three court rulings, including one by the State Appeals Court, Governor Walker on Thursday reluctantly called special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, and Republican legislative leaders dropped their efforts to circumvent current law in an attempt to delay the elections to November.

As a result of the Wednesday and Thursday developments, general elections will be June 12 to fill seats that were vacated in late December when Walker appointed Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, to administrative positions. Walker and Republican leaders wanted to leave those seats vacant until November, but state law requires the governor to call special elections “as promptly as possible.” The lower court ruling gave Walker until noon Thursday to call the special elections. Walker – through the Department of Justice – appealed, but after the Court of Appeals ruled against them Wednesday, they opted not to take the case to the State Supreme Court.

In making its ruling Wednesday, the Appeals Court said: “Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow.”

Republicans – who reportedly feel their party is more likely to win the elections in the fall – have been working on a bill that would change state law and allow them to leave the seats vacant for now and delay the elections until November. Their hope was to get the courts to delay their rulings long enough for the Legislature to hold an extraordinary session to pass a new law that would allow them to leave the seats empty until November.

On Wednesday, the Senate Elections Committee held a hearing on the bill that would change the law, and Democrats voiced strong opposition. “It’s ludicrous but it’s not funny,” said Kathleen Finnerty of Sturgeon Bay, who chairs the Door County Democratic Party and lives in one of the vacant districts. “It couldn’t be more transparent as to what is happening here. You’re afraid of having a Democrat elected into this position.”

The bill planned for the extraordinary session would have removed the provision in state statute requiring special elections to be called “as promptly as possible.” The bill would also would have created a new requirement that would mean legislative vacancies occurring after early December of odd-numbered years would not be filled until the regular November election the following year.

“Democracy depends on fair elections,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “That’s third-grade social studies. If our high school seniors need to take a civics test to graduate, is it too much to ask our elected leaders get it right?”

Students’ 50 Miles More march from Madison culminates with rally in Janesville

An estimated 200 concerned citizens joined students at a rally for common sense gun laws Wednesday in Janesville at the culmination of a 50-mile march by about 40 students. The students marched from Madison to the hometown of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, demanding that he support gun laws that might help prevent another school shooting like the one that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. The 50 Miles More march was an extension of last weekend’s March For Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. and throughout the country and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In a rally at Trexler Park, the students spoke eloquently and emotionally about their experiences marching, the support they received and their passion for the cause of gun reform.”

NBC15 Madison broadcast the Janesville event live on Facebook:

The students posted photos and video of their journey on the 50 Miles More Facebook page:

Read more about the Janesville rally:

50 Miles More students arrive in Paul Ryan’s hometown and rally for gun control

A crowd of about 200 parents, grandparents and supporters watched Wednesday as 40 Wisconsin students finished their 50-mile march from Madison to Janesville, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown. In a rally at Trexler Park, the students spoke eloquently and emotionally about their experiences marching, the support they received and their passion for the cause of gun reform.

Wisconsin students take gun protest on the road to Speaker Paul Ryan’s district

The students say they want a ban on military-style weapons, a ban on accessories to turn semiautomatic weapons into automatic weapons, a four-day waiting period on all gun purchases, background checks on all gun sales and an increase in the legal purchasing age for guns to 21.

In response to activity in the Legislature this spring to develop school safety legislation, WEAC put together a package of Principles for Student Safety that reflect beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety. The Legislature has since passed a school safety measure that was quickly signed by the governor, but it fails to provide resources outlined by WEAC and other groups to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws.