Media Mentions

Middleton High School Minority Mentors Work to Help Elementary Students Achieve

January 14, 2019   |   By Pam Cotant

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Every other week, Middleton High School students mentor younger students at three Middleton elementary schools.

The members of the Black Student Union club “thought the elementary students needed something because there weren’t many teachers of color… so they know someone looks like them and is looking out for them in the district,” said Jaeda Coleman, a Middleton High School sophomore.

The mentors are part of Leaders Emerging to Achieve Greatness by Uplifting Each Other, or LEAGUE, which incorporates other groups at Middleton, including the Latinos Unidos and the Student Voice Union.

“I love it. ... The kids are just so adorable. It is really good to see them every week,” Coleman said. “It gives you sort of a break from high school where everything (academically) is really tough and stressful.”

The Black Student Union, Latinos Unidos and the Student Voice Union all send leaders to the national conference of the Minority Student Achievement Network. It is a national consortium of 27 multiracial, suburban-urban school districts working together to understand and eliminate racial opportunity/achievement gaps that persist within their schools. The organization is based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison and includes the Madison School District, which is a founding member, and the Sun Prairie, Verona and Middleton-Cross Plains districts.

Each year, students from around the country gather at the national MSAN conference held at different locations. This past fall it was in Boston, but Middleton students weren’t able to go. Next fall, the Middleton-Cross Plains School District will host it.

“We are really excited to plan it and control what happens that weekend –- to get to be in charge of the topics we talk about,” said Coleman, who has not been to a national conference before.

Toward the end of the national conference, the students come up with an action plan to take back to their schools.

The mentoring effort by Middleton students was one of many pieces of multi-year action plans developed in the past, said Percy Brown, director of equity and student achievement for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. LEAGUE also informally came out of the national conference, he said.

Right now students do mentoring during their lunch hour, but Brown hopes the mentoring effort can be developed into a class for which students could receive credit.

“For high school kids to give up their lunch hour, that’s something in and of itself,” he said.

Carri Hale, a counselor at Verona High School, chaperoned a trip by six students to attend the conference in Boston. One of the group’s seniors put a proposal together to make a video about microaggressions. She asked for the support of the English course, “Voices Rising,” and invited Principal Pam Hammen to a formal presentation of the proposal. The video was approved and the students are working to have lessons created to help the whole community grow.

The Verona School District, which hosted the MSAN National Student Conference in 2015 for 20 school districts in 10 states, has sent students to the national conference since 2012, Hale said.

Another action plan that came out of a national conference was directly related to creating spaces for Verona students and staff to have dialogue about RACT (Respect All Colors Equally). The students met a presenter named Calvin Terrell, a speaker, educator and community builder from Phoenix, Arizona. Inspired by his work toward equity, the students later brought him to a Dane County MSAN conference that the Verona students hosted for 13 different high schools.

Madeline Hafner, executive director of MSAN, said the organization shares resources, conducts research and supports students of color who are equity leaders in their district .

This fall, the organization, which started with 15 districts, will mark its 20th anniversary.

“We all wish the network wasn’t necessary but until it isn’t, we are going to keep doing what we are doing,” Hafner said.

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Baraboo Teacher Works with UW-Madison Researchers Examining Rural Education

January 10, 2019   |   By Susan Endres

From the Baraboo News Republic

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are looking to school districts such as Baraboo for insight into what it’s like to teach in rural areas and how to better connect university graduates to those schools.

Based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, the Teacher Speakout! program started in 2016. Two small groups of rural Wisconsin teachers have been invited to campus for discussions with rural-school advocates and students training to become educators, according to program manager and special education doctoral student Katie McCabe.

The two discussion sessions and surveys sent to 47 rural districts are meant to keep education research informed by classroom realities, according to a program briefing.

East Elementary School special education teacher Meghan Bauer went to Madison on Oct. 5 as one of seven teachers to participate in the second session.

“It was a really good experience,” Bauer said. “I think it’s a really good step in the right direction in terms of how higher education schools are responding to the needs in education right now and wanting to work with districts and hear from districts about how they can better prepare students and want them coming to rural districts.”

McCabe described the key problems she hears repeated from teachers in rural districts: a shortage of teachers, high turnover, difficulty recruiting new teachers, lack of housing and low salaries, among others.

“However, they also share all of the joys and why they love teaching in a rural school,” McCabe said. “It’s like that close-knit, tight community that also keeps them staying there and teaching, and I find that really interesting.”

Now in her ninth year with the Baraboo School District, Bauer said she loves teaching in Baraboo. She came fresh out of college, landing in Baraboo because it’s where her husband was working at the time. She echoed McCabe’s observation about the sense of community in rural districts.

“You feel connected and involved and an integral part of the community, which is important,” Bauer said. “Once you are in a rural school, you see all the positives that are happening.”

But getting them there in the first place can be a challenge. McCabe said Teacher Speakout! found that several issues keep new teachers from exploring jobs outside of the populated areas around Madison.

Some rural areas don’t have many open rental properties, and most young people can’t afford to buy a house. Aside from that “huge issue” of limited housing, McCabe suggested young teachers also might think there’s a lack of opportunities and things to do in a less urban environment.

Another challenge discussed during the session was supporting new teachers who find themselves in their own “department of one” at smaller districts, Bauer said. Since Baraboo is one of the larger districts to participate, she said she didn’t see that kind of problem here. For example, Baraboo has instructional coaches and a mentor program for new teachers.

“In terms of the resources we have available here, we are very rich in those resources and the district has been very responsive in what teachers need in order to, you know, grow professionally and still meet the needs of students,” she said.

Smaller schools can offer other benefits for teachers, McCabe found — for example, more leadership opportunities, autonomy and ability to exercise their creativity.

She said those benefits should be stressed to change the perspective of teachers in training. Testimony from teachers like Bauer could be instrumental for districts like Baraboo looking to hire new graduates.

McCabe plans to continue working with the program participants and coordinate with the new Rural Education Research and Implementation Center at UW-Madison.

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The 30-Year Reign of Lunchables

December 5, 2018   |   By Joe Pinsker

From the Atlantic:

WCER researcher Andrew Ruis thinks Lunchables has done so well because of how the packaged, compartmentalized lunch food for children it fits into families’ days. The meat-cheese-and-cracker boxes have been around for 30 years, the Atlantic reports. Though the brand started as a clever way to repurpose bologna, which began losing popularity in the mid-1980s, Lunchables created a new category of American foodstuff that it continues to dominate.

“From a parent’s standpoint, you’re trying to assume all these different roles when you’re putting together a kid’s lunch,” Ruis tells the Atlantic. “You’re trying to assume the role of nutritionist; and the role of a chef; and the role of an entertainer, almost; or a psychologist, someone who can get into the head of your kid and know what they want and like.”

The idea that “it’s everything in one package, that all you have to do is purchase this thing” is powerful for parents who can spare a couple of extra dollars, adds Ruis, who is a researcher with Epistemic Analytics at WCER and the author of "Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the United States."

Ruis also noted that in the past couple of decades, parents have been paying more attention to the nutritional elements of what they feed their kids, partly due to concerns about obesity, and partly to other trends. “Clearly there’s been a move toward foods that are more organic, more locally sourced,” he says. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s evenly distributed.”

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The Future Of Learning? Well, It’s Personal

November 19, 2018   |   By Anya Kamenetz, Kyla Calvert Mason and Robbie Feinberg

From National Public Radio:

WCER researcher Rich Halverson shares his take on indvidualized or personalized learning and the opportunities technology offers in an article published by National Public Radio.

Summing up the broad world of individualized learning is difficult,  Halverson tells NPR. He has spent the last few years traveling around the country to see personalized learning in action at public schools. "What schools call personalized varies considerably," he says, and "a lot of schools are doing personalized learning, but don't call it that."

Common elements at the schools he's studied include students meeting regularly one on one with teachers. They set individual learning goals, follow up and discuss progress. All of this may be recorded using some simple software, like a shared Google Doc, for every student, NPR reports.

This process sounds simple, but face-to-face interaction is "expensive," says Halverson. Twenty-eight meetings of 15 minutes each equals a full day of a teacher's time, and the entire school day, week, year may need to be reconfigured to allow for it. Some schools Halverson has studied, especially charter schools with more freedom, have remade the curriculum to emphasize group projects and presentations, where students can prove the necessary knowledge and skills while pursuing topics that interest them. Students are grouped by ability and interest, not age, and may change groups from subject to subject or day to day. Scheduling and staffing is necessarily fluid; even the building may need to be reconfigured for maximum flexibility.

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Grodksy Comments on Absenteeism

November 15, 2018   |   By Molly Beck and Kevin Crowe

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Student absences cost three school districts and 124 schools in Wisconsin five points from their overall report card rating from the state Department of Public Instruction, but WCER researcher Eric Grodsky suggests policymakers should examine why students miss school rather than penalize schools in their ratings over a factor school staff cannot control, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"The consensus seems to be that missing school has adverse consequences, from achievement growth to high school graduation and I'm not sure I totally buy it," Grodsky told the Journal Sentinel. He is a professor of sociology and educational policy studies who has been studying absenteeism among Madison students.

DPI assigns the state ratings after analyzing data related to academics, attendance and graduation rates from the 2017-18 school year, the Journal Sentinal reported. The report card system assigns five-star ratings to public schools and private voucher schools.

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Graue Part of Project Receiving DreamUp Wisconsin Funding

November 14, 2018

From the UW-Madison School of Education:

When UW–Madison was selected by Schmidt Futures as part of its Alliance for the American Dream Initiative, the grant came with a significant challenge: Produce innovative ideas for increasing the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10 percent by 2020.

DreamUp Wisconsin, the local implementation effort launched to meet the challenge, has selected 11 proposals, from a total of 46 submitted by teams of community and university partners, which offer innovative ideas to grow and support Dane County’s middle class.

And among those involved with a winning proposal is the School of Education’s Elizabeth Graue, who is collaborating with others on a multi-pronged approach to transform the early childhood and out-of-school time sectors.

Graue is the Sorenson Professor with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the director of the newly launched Center for Research on Early Childhood Education.

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Jackson Helps Lead New Project via Wisconsin Partnership Program Award

November 2, 2018

From UW-Madison School of Education:

Jerlando Jackson, director and chief research scientist of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory within WCER, is the academic partner in a university intiative to improve health and health equity across Wisconsin.

Jackson will work with the Nehemiah Community Development Corporation on its initiative “Reducing Health Inequity through Promotion of Social Connection” initiative that focuses on reducing disparities in overall health among African Americans by addressing implicit and structural racism. The program expands its Justified Anger pilot work.

African-Americans in Wisconsin have poorer health outcomes than their white neighbors due the powerful influence of their social and community context. Those health disparities include higher rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, premature births and maternal deaths. To address these health disparities, Nehemiah has been piloting an innovative approach to increasing health equity by developing new, and strengthening existing, social and professional networks for African-Americans.

This grant will implement a three-tiered approach that will involve education and training for grassroots African American neighborhood leaders, African-American professionals and white allies through its “Justified Anger Black History for a New Day.” The team will facilitate cross-cultural interactions with mentorship support that will result in building and strengthening social networks within each community and will support participants with identifying opportunities for collaborative social action.

Jackson is the Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, and a faculty member with, and chair of, the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

The Nehemiah Community Development Corporation is receiving one of five university grants the Partnership Program’s Community Impact Grant program. Each grant totals $1 million over five years to support large-scale, evidence-based, community-academic partnerships aimed at achieving sustainable systems changes to improve health equity in Wisconsin.

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Working on the Achievement Gap

October 31, 2018   |   By Steven Elbow

From the Capital Times:

Some officials, experts and education advocates say initiatives to narrow Wisconsin's gap between black and white student academic achievement have been in place for years and are having an impact on a problem that will likely take decades to solve.

“I think there have been significant successes across different areas,” Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network at WCER, told the Capital Times. “Individual schools and individual districts have seen gaps close across different measures.”

“No single educational entity can fix this,” Hafner said. “It’s a societal challenge that took hundreds of years to create and will require addressing all the aspects that contribute to societal racism.”

Hafner, the UW-Madison education professor, heads up the Minority Student Achievement Network, a national coalition of school districts that share strategies for narrowing the achievement gap. In the four districts in Dane County, including Madison, more students of color and more students who live in poverty are taking honors and advanced placement classes. “We have research that shows that participating in honors courses and AP courses, the kids who do that persist in college at better rates than kids who don’t take those courses,” Haffner told the Capital Times.

She said those districts are also investing in early childhood intervention, a strategy that has been effective in getting kids ready for school, and they are recruiting more teachers of color. “Research shows us that when kids have racially diverse teachers, students of color achieve at higher levels,” she said. “You’ve seen that program grow over time.”

Her coalition also trains “equity leaders” to help narrow the achievement gap by interacting with fellow students to encourage achievement. “Just next week our kids are going to a national leadership conference for high school students for becoming equity leaders in their schools and districts,” she said. “I see across the United States our kids coming and telling us about the changes they’re making in their schools.”

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Finding A Job That Fits: Study Finds Mismatch Between Education, Job Qualifications

October 30, 2018   |   By Shamane Mills

From Wisconsin Public Radio:

While there’s evidence that getting a college degree pays off in the long run — mainly with a higher income level — education can be expensive and there’s no guarantee that the jobs available upon graduation require the knowledge and skills acquired. A new Urban Institute report looks at the mismatch and finds that nearly two-thirds of jobs require a high school degree or less at entry level. But, 60 percent of people 25 and older have more than a high school education.

WCER labor economist Matías Scaglione tells Wisconsin Public Radio the gap between education and employment could be even greater in some areas because the Urban Institute study didn’t look at labor force participation. "Labor force participation rates for people with bachelor’s degrees or higher are 73 percent, more or less. For those with high school degrees it's 58 percent," Scaglione told WPR. "So that’s why focusing on population can be misleading. We have to focus on labor force and then employment."

Scaglione, who was not involved with the study, said the skills gap has been brewing for a long time. "Basically college degrees have been growing, and college education expanding and then jobs not really being there for all the college graduates," he said.

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AR Girls Present Results of Their Work on Interactive Digital Stories

October 30, 2018

From The Republican Journal:

Ten teen girls recently presented a showcase of their work designing Augmented Reality (AR) Experiences to a standing-room-only crowd of 30 people in the Fallout Shelter at Waterfall Arts.

The AR Girls project is a collaborative effort among the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Oregon State University Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning, University of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and Waterfall Arts.

Augmented Reality is a cutting edge technology in which users engage with hybrid media content, delivered through a computer or mobile device that has been programmed to coordinate and/or overlay over images from the real world, like Pokemon Go.

The AR Girls began working on their interactive digital stories in August during a two-week Summer Intensive where they learned to work in teams with science professionals to design games and create all the graphic and media content to program interactive stories.

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Wadewitz Students, Teacher Contribute to Wisconsin History Game

October 30, 2018

From The Journal Times:

Some Wadewitz Elementary students, along with one of their teachers, learned earlier this year about Wisconsin history while contributing to the development and testing of an online video game.

The game, called Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, was produced by Wisconsin Public Television Education and Field Day Lab and was released Oct. 10.

“Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, set in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol, assists educators in teaching history while engaging students as ‘history detectives’ to immerse them in the action,” according to a statement from WPT.

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Brillion Students Meet Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case

October 30, 2018

From The Brillion News:

Last fall, Keith Polkinghorne received a call from Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) Education wondering if he and his students would be interesting in testing out an online video game - Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case - as it was being developed. The request was happily granted.

"It was kind of out of the blue," Polkinghorne said. The longtime technology education teacher at Brillion Elementary School said that he thought the game was a great concept.

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WPT Video Game Tested Locally

October 30, 2018

From The Shawano Leader:

A new online video game is expected to grab children’s attention and not let them go.

Parents won’t have to worry much, though, as “Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case” is expected to stimulate — not rot — children’s brains and increase their appreciation for Wisconsin history. The game was released earlier this month on Wisconsin Public Television’s education website, WPTeducation.org.

A cohort of teachers and students helped develop the game with WPT Education and Field Day Lab, an educational game developer within the University Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Lisa Sorlie, Bonduel School District’s library media specialist, and almost 150 students from Bonduel Elementary School helped test the game.

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The Capitol Case

October 30, 2018

From The Waukesha Freeman:

From the moment you open the game “Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case,” you can tell the titular character is an adventurer at heart. That’s perfect because the young girl was created to teach students in grades three through five about social studies, English and technology as they follow clues.

Players accompany Jo around the state Capitol and more as they also become adventurers and attempt to tell the true story behind several Wisconsin artifacts. Students can’t prove their case without sharing evidence or their sources, as they learn how to work with primary sources. The game was developed with the help of several Wisconsin elementary teachers, including Hillcrest Elementary teacher Boyd Roessler and Hadfield Elementary teacher Jennifer Guckenberger.

“It was all kind of designed as a centennial celebration of the state Capitol,” said Roessler. “2017 was the centennial of the current building, so they wanted this game to kind of be part of that event.”

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WPT Education’s Capitol Game Gets Top Score

October 30, 2018

From Wisconsin Public Television:

This October, WPT Education was excited to introduce Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, a free online video game set in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol, that assists educators in teaching social studies, while giving students the chance to be “history detectives.”

Nikki Lutzke, a teacher partner in the Parkview School District, said, “[Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case] brought learning to us concretely… and forever changed how this teacher views learning about and teaching history!”

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