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 is a longtime Madison activist. He founded Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (now Clean Wisconsin), Dane Dances, and (with others) the local chapter of 350.org. 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.
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.