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Past Issues | September 29, 2014 |
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1. Evers Delivers State of Education Address

State Superintendent Tony Evers covered three major areas in his annual State of Education Address Thursday: current initiatives, the Promoting Excellence for All website for closing achievement gaps, and school finance reform.

After citing some statistics to “get us all jazzed about public schools and public libraries in Wisconsin” — such as the surge of women in school district leadership and the towering numbers of Wisconsin public library users — Evers brought the public up to speed on the long list of big initiatives educators are working on.

State Superintendent Tony Evers delivering his 2014 State of Education Address at the Wisconsin State Capitol

State Superintendent Tony Evers: “Let’s synchronize our moral compasses ... and begin the difficult journey to promote excellence, so every child in Wisconsin, regardless of race ... disability, language background, poverty, can graduate ready to succeed in college and careers. Let’s fight for and finally achieve meaningful school finance reform for all students, from all parts of the state, with the equal opportunity they deserve.”

“We’re doing more this year than in any of my previous 37 years in public education,” Evers said. He named higher, rigorous new academic standards; better assessments; a new educator evaluation system; new investments in career readiness; and continued improvements in the state’s accountability system.

He mentioned that “the Education Commission of the States rated Wisconsin’s school report cards as among the best in the nation.”

Evers then spotlighted the new Promoting Excellence for All website. Created by the teachers and administrators on his achievement gap task force, Promoting Excellence for All presents proven strategies to close achievement gaps, with the educators themselves explaining in videos how they applied some of these strategies in their schools.

The task force “did not disappoint,” Evers said, but “proposed real solutions to classroom life with diverse groups of kids.” While they “clearly understood that poverty matters,” Evers said he agrees with the group’s conclusion that “if we don’t address the issue of race head-on, we will have failed.”

More information about the website is available in article #2 of this issue.

Finally, Evers announced a push to fix the state’s school funding inequalities by reintroducing Fair Funding for Our Future. More information about this proposal is available in article #3.

Video, photographs, and text of the address are available online.

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2. Promoting Excellence for All Unveiled

“A lot of times, as educators, we talk about all the things that are out of our control,” teacher Theresa Morateck says in a video overview of the Promoting Excellence for All website.

“And we forget just how powerful education is.”

The power of education to close achievement gaps is evidenced on the site, which presents strategies recommended by the Wisconsin teachers and administrators on the state superintendent’s task force on Wisconsin’s achievement gap.

Every single one of these educators represented a school shown through a DPI data analysis to be closing gaps in achievement between students of color, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English language learners, and their peers. The schools represent all grade levels, urban, rural, and suburban settings.

Clearly, while achievement gaps may be persistent — they are not insurmountable.

Screenshot from Promoting Excellence for All

Angel List is one of the featured strategies at Promoting Excellence for

Evers and the Department of Public Instruction are encouraging Wisconsin educators to visit the site and see if any strategies might help them in their work. Visitors can stay informed of the updates (which are planned throughout 2014-15 and beyond) by subscribing to a new e-mail list or through other means. As Evers states in the video overview, “We do a lot of great things in Wisconsin ... But ... we have one of the largest achievement gaps in the United States of America.”

The department welcomes feedback of any kind on Promoting Excellence for All. The DPI also encourages everyone in Wisconsin to consider spreading the word about the site as a massive group effort to advance the cause of equal opportunity for all students. One way to spread the word is to join the Thunderclap campaign (A Thunderclap is a message that broadcasts automatically at a designated time — in this case, October 29 at 1:00 p.m. — from the social media accounts of those who sign up).

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3. Fair Funding for Our Future to be Reintroduced

Discussing school funding in his State of Education Address, Evers commended the work of the Speaker’s Task Force on Rural Schools, comprised of rural legislators from both parties. He said the group heard loud and clear what educators have long known: the state’s school funding system is broken. Evers said the price of Wisconsin’s continued cuts, freezes, caps, and failure to reform the school funding system is an increasing divide among rural, suburban, and urban school districts.

He also argued that the school funding system is threatening Wisconsin students’ fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a sound basic education.

“In its 2000 Vincent v. Voight decision, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court found our school finance system to be constitutionally sound, so long as it met certain conditions.” And yet, in recent years school funding decisions have “gone the other way.”

Evers cited data showing state aid hasn’t kept pace with inflation; frozen special education aid only covers about a quarter of district special education costs; state funding for English learners now covers only 8.5 percent of eligible costs for a growing population; student poverty has increased, with 43 percent eligible for free and reduced-price school meals; and more districts are experiencing declining enrollment, leaving rural districts poorer, with fewer kids.

We can no longer ignore these realities” and what they mean for our students, he said. “This November, I will again propose Fair Funding for Our Future — a comprehensive school funding reform package. I’ll propose increases in general aid and revenue limits and more support for special needs students, English learners, students in poverty, and rural schools.”

“I call on our governor and Legislature to finally tackle this issue and adopt these long overdue reforms.... Let’s fight for and finally achieve meaningful school finance reform that provides all students from all parts of the state the equal opportunities they deserve.”

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4. Friends of Education Honored

State Superintendent Tony Evers presented his 2014 Friend of Education awards as part of his annual State of Education Address at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Thursday.

Daniel T. Ariens receiving Friend of Education Award from Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers

Daniel T. Ariens, CEO of the Ariens Company, leads by a set of five core values: Be Fair; Be Honest; Respect the Individual; Keep Our Commitments; and Encourage Intellectual Curiosity. The Ariens Company partnered with the Brillion School District in 2007 and provided a $1.5 million gift, doubling the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classroom space. Additionally, Ariens’ engineers work with students daily in classrooms, teaching how engineering is related to their STEM courses and learning from the students’ innovative thinking as well. The Ariens Company encourages students to pursue engineering fields with the hope of building an employment pipeline back to Ariens when students graduate.

Michael Johnson receiving Friend of Education Award from Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers

Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, has made it his priority to ensure that the Boys & Girls Club continues to be a leader in youth development, while enhancing its partnerships to produce positive outcomes for young people and their families. The club’s AVID/TOPS Program has produced high graduation rates for five consecutive years. The Club has expanded to more than 100 full- and part-time staff working in public schools throughout Dane County. Johnson leads awareness efforts for the annual “Bike for the Boys and Girls Club” fundraiser to ensure children in Dane County have access to quality programs by sleeping on the rooftops of local businesses for several nights until the event meets its goal.

Darryl Morin receiving Friend of Education Award from Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers

Darryl Morin is CEO and president of Advanced Wireless Inc. based in Franklin, and serves at the state and national levels in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The proud son of a Texas migrant worker, Morin was a leader in advancing dual enrollment in the Milwaukee area. He has raised over $500,000 in grants to improve education in Southeastern Wisconsin. Morin and his wife also created the “Wireless School Initiative,” providing up to $500,000 in wireless equipment and services to schools in need. This year, he partnered with Time Warner Cable and LULAC to create a wireless Internet connection for families and local community members at Milwaukee’s Walker Square Park and Farmers Market.

Peter Yang receiving Friend of Education Award from Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers

Peter Yang, executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau, came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, so he knows first-hand the challenges Hmong American immigrants have experienced. His focus is serving the Southeast Asian community and working with the larger community in Marathon County. Yang has guided changes at the Hmong American Center so it adapts to the changing needs of the Hmong Americans and his community in Marathon County. He works with families on a variety of issues, including adult education, how to involve families in their children’s education, and encouraging Hmong American students to graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

Anne Paape and Lisa Klein of WKBT-TV News 8 in La Crosse receiving Friend of Education Award from Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers

WKBT-TV News 8 in La Crosse provides La Crosse and surrounding communities with excellent information, via broadcast and the web, about education and local schools. The Top Notch Teacher program is a monthly highlight of teachers in and out of the classroom who have truly made an impact on others’ lives. Once a year, News 8 hosts a banquet honoring the Top Notch teachers. Assignment Education is an ongoing initiative supporting education in the community, recently focusing on the key education efforts of global education, personalized learning, and open enrollment. Through its Compassion Project, News 8 recently promoted bullying prevention efforts by encouraging students to think about how they can be more compassionate to others. Accepting the Friend of Education award for News 8 were Anne Paape, station manager and news director, and Lisa Klein, news anchor and reporter.

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5. Learning, Fitness Supported by Active Schools: Core 4+

Students’ academic achievement and fitness levels both benefit from physical exercise — which is why a new website that shares creative ways to increase students’ physical activity during the day is aimed at Wisconsin educators at all levels, subjects, or roles.

Research shows students who get enough exercise are “calmer, better learners” — in the words of the Active Schools: Core 4+ overview presentation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only half of the nation’s children are meeting the federal recommendation of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

The new Active Schools: Core 4+ organizes its ideas under the following umbrella strategies. Many resources are also linked directly from the DPI’s Physical Education webpage, in a simple one-page chart.

Active PE Minutes — Making sure students’ heart rates are elevated for 50-70% of their physical education class time. Suggested activities include Taking Roll on the Run.

Active Classrooms — Classroom teachers lead movement breaks which can be as short as 10 minutes; examples include classroom yoga or “Wiggles.”

Active Recess/Open Gym — Organized activities and opportunities for equipment access during recess. An example from Neenah (described in a video on the site) is a walking track and “mileage club” for students who want to walk and talk with friends during recess (The school says behavioral referrals dropped 16% since beginning its Active Recess program.).

Before and After School — Appealing activities for students, staff, and family members before and after school in addition to intramural sports.

Home and Community — Homework or community options for physical activity outside of school.

Each category offers descriptions of activities, lesson plans, and video overviews with helpful profiles. The activities are tagged and searchable ("Search" is at the top left on the site) by grade level, core strategy, time required, indoor vs. outdoor, and more. Some fit more than one need, such as the Winter Scavenger Hunt.

A “How ‘Did You Get Your 60?’” tool gives examples of how an elementary, middle, and high school might implement the different strategies in different ways.

Screenshot from Active Schools: Core 4+ website

The site is a collaboration between the DPI and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services with support from the Wisconsin Health and Physical Education Association and the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention.

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State Superintendent Tony Evers


1. Evers Delivers State of Education Address

2. Promoting Excellence for All Unveiled

3. Fair Funding for Our Future to be Reintroduced

4. Friends of Education Honored 

5. Learning, Fitness Supported by Active Schools: Core 4+

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