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Leading to Reform: October 28

This Week’s letter highlights the importance of good elementary schools to turning around struggling high schools, a Madison Judge delaying the inevitable in Wisconsin, why leaders need to find their purpose and how Florida now leads education reform advocated by President Obama and Governor Romney. As always, we link as always to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform.

Madison Judge Upholds Own Decision – Denying Stay on Act Ten
A Madison Judge declared this week that he won't delay enforcement of his September ruling overturning parts of the state's collective bargaining law while the state appeals it. Circuit Judge Juan Colas wrote that issuing a stay that would put his decision on hold would allow continued violations of the state and federal constitutions, contrary to the public interest.

Colas said the state has not shown that it would suffer irreparable harm if his ruling, which restored collective bargaining rights to municipal and school district unions, were put on hold until a state appeals court decides whether to overturn the ruling.

On September 14, the judge ruled that parts of ACT Ten are unconstitutional infringements on municipal and school district workers' right of free speech, freedom of association and equal protection. The law, which took effect in June 2011 after legislative action and protests at the State Capitol in Madison, banned collective bargaining for most state, municipal and school workers. The decision did not affect state workers, who were not a party to the lawsuit in which Colas ruled nor the ability of local officials to hold down costs in collective bargaining or those looking to use state law to avoid their responsibility to their community.

The state had argued that it would suffer harm if Colas did not stay his September ruling, including confusion and budgeting problems for municipal employers.

But the judge wrote that the state offered no proof of any harm, irreparable or otherwise, that was likely to occur if he did not issue a stay. He wrote that the state also failed to show that by granting the stay there would not be substantial harm to other interested parties, such as employee unions.

The state will now ask the state Court of Appeals to stay Colas' September decision, which is reportedly likely to uphold ACT Ten overturning the Madison Judge’s ruling.
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Turning Around High Schools – One Elementary School at a Time
For turnaround operators, the stark reality is that most failing high schools serve a significant percentage of students who enter 9th grade far below grade level.  While college- and career- readiness is the ultimate goal, day-to-day it can feel incredibly daunting to make progress when students are spending much of their time in remedial classes and credit recovery.

We asked this group, what would it take to create college- and career-ready outcomes in these high schools? Many quickly identified the need to improve “feeder patterns,” a deliberate sequence of elementary, middle, and high schools– rather than taking on stand-alone high schools.
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Finding Your Purpose
Shaun Luehring -- Principal of Atonement School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin found an article on how leaders must find their purpose in life to lead well. Finding a purpose is not like shopping. The unforgiving truth us: it's a little more like boot camp. It hurts, it's hard, but you can emerge fitter, tougher, better. Want purpose? Prepare to be left black and blue — all over, over and over again. Purpose beats you up; it bruises you; it's no mere shadowboxing with "life goals" but a bare-knuckle gladiatorial contest between you, and the heavyweight champion known as a life that matters. Like Big Love, it doesn't just give you scrapes — it leaves with you scars.

And maybe that scar tissue, to those sunning themselves on the bleachers, ironically, coolly grinning at life -- instead of struggling with living it -- looks disfiguring, ugly, something to jeer at and mock. But those of us privileged by purpose? We know a secret: that growth sometimes feels like suffering.

Purpose, like any great love, redeems us. Perhaps not from the inferno, but from the void. Of a life, starved by insatiable self-regard, that comes to feel desperately empty -- because, in truth, it has been. There is no singular, simple, final meaning to life. And it is the scars of purpose that, finally, don't just merely give meaning to life -- but endow us with a greater privilege -- giving life to meaning.

From the Sunday Papers…

Florida Education Reform Now Model for US Education
For over a decade now, like it or not, schools in Florida have been graded from A to F based on the performance and progress of their pupils in reading, writing, math, and science tests. A-grade or improving schools are rewarded with extra money, while schools receiving the lowest grade twice in a row face closure.

The Florida model is now being followed by states across the country, inspiring new legislation in Wisconsin Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Indiana.

President Obama has praised Bush as a "champion of education reform", and the changes in Florida are mirrored in many elements of the president's signature education initiative Race to the Top.

The Obama/Duncan initiative is a competition for federal funds, awarded to states that embrace changes including charter schools and performance pay for teachers.

The reforms in Florida have put greater pressure on the school system in two ways; by increasing accountability for schools and teachers, and by giving parents more options than just their local public school.

Highly Educated Have Biggest Debt Problems
A new study finds that highly educated Americans were most likely to take on unmanageable debt in the pre-crisis years. What’s more, gross personal financial mismanagement occurred across the population and not just in the mortgage market and not just among the unsophisticated.

The study draws a line at the point where monthly payment on household debt equals 40% of income. That’s where default or bankruptcy becomes most likely should the household experience a decline in income; say researchers led by Sherman Hanna, professor of consumer sciences at Ohio State University. Learn More...

Chicago Public Schools Strike Fallout
Chicago teachers recently ratified a new contract, the product of a seven-day September strike that shook the entire city. It took 350,000 students out of class, upended the lives of working families, and had an economic impact that has yet to be tallied. It played a major role in the departure, last week, of the district’s superintendent, Jean-Claude Brizard.

More than anything, the strike was a howl of frustration from teachers. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) seized the opportunity for a strike and made it a referendum on lack of respect and poor working conditions, big-tent themes that resonated even with teachers who generally support education reforms. The deal that ended the strike is unlikely to truly address teachers’ concerns or their hunger for respect. Based on our review, it’s more likely to take schools and teachers a step backwards.

The final agreement weakens teacher evaluations by allowing teachers who earn low ratings to continue teaching indefinitely. If they make a minuscule amount of improvement each year, they can teach class after class of students—even if they never become effective. Students and teachers will pay the price.

As layoffs become necessary, a fact of life in CPS, the contract says that high-performing early career teachers must be cut before more experienced but lower-performing teachers.

Finally, the deal could deprive teachers and students alike of a wide range of future academic and extra-curricular opportunities, because it promises across-the-board teacher raises. The likely result will be drastic cuts, school closures and program reductions that are sure to drive away more great teachers than the raises retain.

Articles for the Week:

“Whoever wins the 2012 election is likely going to disappoint educators who are trying to get away from the Florida education reform”--Jeevan Vasgar

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