Schools without discipline will fail

A scathing indictment
from a Madison liberal

We have been reporting many of the same facts and conclusions presented here but coming from a mainstream liberal with impeccable credentials just maybe Madison will wake up.

Peter Anderson

Peter Anderson

Peter Anderson is a longtime Madison activist. He founded Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (now Clean Wisconsin), Dane Dances, and (with others) the local chapter of Earlier in his career, he taught fifth grade in an African-American/Puerto Rican school in the South Bronx.

Mr. Anderson says his four adult children and his two biracial grandchildren attended Franklin, Randall, Gompers and Crestwood elementary schools, Hamilton and Jefferson middle schools, and West and Memorial high schools in Madison. Herewith is an excerpt of his piece, the entirety of which can be found here.

By Peter Anderson

Jennifer Cheatham’s tenure, to a not-insignificant extent, became increasingly defined by her efforts to deflect vocal pressure from Freedom Inc., by how those efforts affected her determination to convince opinion leaders of her commitment to racial justice, and by her inability to actually reduce the black achievement gap.

To reinvigorate her bona fides, she caved in to unsubstantiated claims of racism and sacrificed teachers with no record of bias. 

But that undermined teachers’ ability to discipline disruptive students who are African-American, and, in consequence, significantly contributed to schools becoming increasingly dysfunctional, which leads to middle class flight. Then, because her efforts also proved misdirected to reduce the black achievement gap, Dr. Cheatham misrepresented performance data by lowering expectations in order to artificially inflate the reputation she cultivated.

Behavior Education Plan

The debilitating problems began with the roll out or Dr. Cheatham’s Behavior Education Plan in 2014. The plan itself was a well-intentioned replacement of the earlier zero tolerance policy, which had a disparate impact on black students from troubled homes. The Plan provided for a progressive approach to discipline, and restorative justice in lieu of punishment, that was intended to keep misbehaving students in classrooms.

Problems arose in the Plan’s implementation that led students to conclude that there no longer any consequences for bad behavior.

No consequences for misbehavior

For the Plan’s positive approach to work, it was critical that students continued to believe that there were real consequences for bad behaviors, which meant they had to see positive reinforcements and restorative practices as something serious, and not as a free pass to continue misbehaving. Otherwise, discipline will break down and the other students will increasingly be unable to learn, and will convey that fact to their parents.

Student Climate Survey

The District’s School Climate Survey for students in the 2018-2019 school year shows the toll Dr. Cheatham’s policies have taken. 

Teacher Climate Survey

For the teachers, the results were also disturbing.

The survey also compiled a representative sampling of anecdotal responses that helps explain the basis for the mounting frustration about students no longer believing there were any consequences for disruptions. In addition to the lack of adequate resources, teachers reported:

Another discussed hearing about this perception of no consequences: “My experience has been that students have gotten the impression that they can do whatever they want and there’s not going to be any consequence.”

Running out of racists

Racist parents departed the District a long time ago, and a significant share of the families who remain value diversity – but not if their child cannot feel safe and receive a good education in the city’s schools.

Increasingly, they are moving to the suburbs or sending their children to private schools, as I have heard from black as well as white parents in my acquaintance.

Peter Anderson’s bottom line:

The city’s schools, once the jewel in Madison’s crown, have been, literally, coming apart at the seams under Dr. Cheatham’s leadership before she sought to escape responsibility for her failure by bolting to academia.

Blaska’s bottom line: Madison schools are poised to ask voters next fall for $315 million in new bonding authority and permission to exceed state spending caps by $36 million over four years on top of a $479 million budget. In the last budget, Madison increased its levy  7.2% — by $22.1 million (the largest dollar increase in the state) —  to $330.1 million. Between Open Enrollment and private schools, just over 13% of children in Madison opt out of MMSD. Their parents vote and so do those of increasingly disgusted parents remaining in the public schools.

What do YOU think?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
This entry was posted in Critical Race Theory / Identity politics, Madison schools. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Schools without discipline will fail

  1. Pingback: No safe space for reformers at a Madison middle school? | Blaska Policy Werkes

  2. grandparentgrumpy says:


    Sent from ProtonMail Mobile


  3. fritzderkat says:

    Now, what would it take to get everyone in Madison to read it?
    Even the progs.
    Naah. Waste of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gary L. Kriewald says:

    Madison’s liberal elites would vote for the school budget increase if it were double (or triple) the $315 million being proposed. To do otherwise would open them up to charges of being “anti-education.” Just the way anyone who dares utter a peep of skepticism about the relentless predictions of doom by the climate change crowd is branded “anti-science.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. BOOM CHAKA LAKA!!!!! says:

    Remember it is pronounced AN-AN-DA


  6. George's Son says:

    The immediate -and future incremental additions to Madison property taxes would frighten most constituents. Especially since that ever-engulfing maw has no limits. ‘Fraid it’s not so in Madison.

    Anderson’s fine essay -and the talking points he includes, should be obvious to anyone. Anyone who has followed the slip into the morass of crime, UN-education and rapidly declining student ratings in Madison schools. Anyone who cares about the future of Madison students.

    Pretty much he put a wrench to the problem and torqued it down firmly.


  7. Pingback: Madison schools’ happy talk Cheat(ham)s black kids | Blaska Policy Werkes

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