Media Mentions

Mishicot’s Justin Gerlach speaks at Madison Teacher Speakout! event

November 18, 2019

The Herald Times Reporter (USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Justin Gerlach, a high school science teacher at Mishicot High School who in 2018 was named Rural Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, was a panelist at the third annual Teachers Speakout! event Friday at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in Madison.

The Friday event was followed by field trips on Saturday at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Gerlach was one of 19 rural STEM educators from 18 Wisconsin school districts to participate in the Teacher Speakout! event, which is hosted by the Rural Education Research and Implementation Center. A news release said the goal of the Teacher Speakout! "is to bring the voices of rural teachers into a collaborative, public forum with researchers, legislators and rural school advocates."

Wisconsin Center for Education Research Director Robert Mathieu said in the news release, “The event will bring the knowledge of our teacher partners directly to campus so our research is better informed and can respond most effectively on behalf of students in rural school districts in Wisconsin.”


Rural Wisconsin STEM teachers build connections to researchers at UW event

November 18, 2019   |   By Yvonne Kim

The Capital Times

Jennifer Seelig was working on her dissertation in the Northwoods in 2017 when the Wisconsin Center for Education Research reached out to her about involving teachers in education research.

A former rural teacher herself, Seelig jumped on board to help plan the first Teacher Speakout! event and is now the assistant director of WCER’s Rural Educators Research and Implementation Center. On Friday and Saturday, RERIC hosted 19 teachers from the state’s rural districts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the event’s third year.

“Centering teachers’ voices would be an effective way to engage them with research we’re already doing at WCER, as well as interest researchers in connecting with teachers,” Seelig said about the event’s origins. “Folks often don’t think of rural schools as places to do research.”

After the first two years, RERIC considered how to create stronger “professional learning communities” for rural teachers who may be isolated with little access to colleagues in their field, Seelig said. One way was to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as a specific subject area. Eight rural teachers discussed their personal experiences as STEM educators during a Friday panel.

Science and math teacher Jessica Dennis, who represented Washington Island, called her island district a “magical place” where students don’t just learn about wood or Lyme disease on paper. Instead, they have direct access to wooded areas that directly influence what they’re learning based on their surroundings.

In the Pecatonica Area School District, high school science teacher Jacob Roberts said he enjoys the flexibility to change up his lesson plans day to day in a small district. For instance, he teaches climate change by referencing rates of flooding in the Pecatonica River, and “the students get that right away. It’s not political to them.”

“Where you live should not limit your opportunity,” Roberts said. “Sometimes we can’t afford some of the expensive scientific experiments without grants … so we need to continually seek out ways to get students in contact with technology and opportunities and re-instill in them that they’re capable of great things regardless of where they live.”

Moderating the panel in the UW's School of Education, Seelig made sure to raise questions about higher education, such as how universities like UW-Madison can better engage teachers in grant proposals.

High school computer science, business and science teacher Olivia Dachel mentioned the importance of institutions removing barriers, such as transportation, when hosting events or creating opportunities for rural teachers. High school science teacher Jackie Drews discussed the difficult time commitment of deciphering which of seemingly endless grants to apply for.

“Getting someone to narrow it down for me would be absolutely amazing,” Drews said. “That would be the most useful thing anyone could do for me in terms of trying to find funding and trying to find new opportunities for students.”

Astronomy professor and WCER director Bob Mathieu said in an interview that, though many researchers on campus are already interested in rural Wisconsin, RERIC has offered a “place of connection” for people to nucleate that interest and directly connect with one another. Opening Friday morning’s panel, Mathieu said he was eager to hear STEM perspectives from rural teachers.

“We, being in a city, are constantly bringing students to campus to enrich and expand their STEM experiences. It is my guess that there are many, many opportunities to do the same in rural Wisconsin,” Mathieu said. “How do we give them the opportunities to follow what may be their life path?”


UWO takes part in research on undergraduate military service members, veterans

November 15, 2019

UW OSHKOSH TODAY

A new research project focuses on the experiences of undergraduate military service members and veterans enrolled in Wisconsin universities, including the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The Wisconsin Center for Education Research recently launched the Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (VETWAYS), a three-year, $556,000 research project funded by the National Science Foundation.

The study seeks to better understand the unique social experiences and challenges this special student population encounters as they progress through college and into the workforce.

VETWAYS staff will conduct research through surveys and interviews with students and educators from UW Oshkosh and three other UW schools—Madison, Milwaukee and Stout.

“I believe research that helps to better understand and focuses on the success of student veterans has great value,” said Timber Smith, UWO Veterans Resource Center coordinator.

“This particular research will be extra beneficial to our Veterans Resource Center because it aligns with our primary mission: To provide a central location on each campus to seek guidance, explore available veterans education benefits and campus resources while connecting with other veterans, friends and resource center staff.”

While other studies conducted on student veterans show that social support is important to improving their college experiences, very little research has specifically focused on the relationships that provide them with help, advice, comradery or guidance, said Ross Benbow, the study’s principal investigator.

“Social support has come up as a particularly important factor linked to college success in other studies of student veterans. Our work, which explores how social support connects with students’ college-to-career trajectories, is an important step in the progression of this research.”

Benbow said that student veterans in college face two unique sets of challenges.

“Transitions into college from military lives marked by discipline, a clear chain of command, and a real unity of purpose can be incredibly difficult,” he said, adding that feelings of isolation on campus, coupled with the many bureaucratic hurdles student veterans have to jump in college, may adversely affect persistence.

“Veterans are also more likely to be students of color, first-generation students, older and/or married, and have more off-campus responsibilities. They’re more likely to suffer from trauma due to military experiences than traditional students, as well.”

Benbow added that these characteristics all have been linked to more difficult pathways through college.

Joseph Rasmussen, veteran services coordinator with University Veteran Services at the UW-Madison, is an advisory board member for the new study.

“I am thrilled about the Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study. UW-Madison has a strong tradition of public service and research, and this study honors both,” said Rasmussen, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I’m excited to see the positive real-world impacts these findings will hold for student military service members and veterans as well as for professionals looking to serve them.”

Benbow said VETWAYS can help college administrators and student services professionals—whether veteran coordinators, career counselors, academic advisers, faculty, or other higher education practitioners—shape curricular and programming offerings to better meet the needs of undergraduate military service members and veterans.

“When you’re looking at higher education and the country’s future workforce needs, as my colleagues and I are doing, this is an incredibly skilled, capable and deserving group of students to focus on,” Benbow said. “Colleges and future employers should be competing over these students, so we’re excited to play a small part in better understanding and helping to improve their academic and early-career experiences.”


UW-Madison research finds easy, low-cost exercise prevents ‘6th-grade slump’

November 7, 2019   |   By Dannika Lewis

From Channel 3000:

MADISON, Wis. - Dana Serwe went into her career thinking she wanted to teach elementary school but, 11 years after being hired as a sixth-grade instructor at Toki Middle School in Madison, she’s still in those same classrooms.

“The most important thing that I hope kids go home with at this point in the year is that they belong here at our school,” Serwe said.

It’s a message that resonates with administrators, as well, knowing the transition from elementary into middle school can be particularly difficult and sometimes overlooked.  It’s why staff members such as Cory Foster were brought on board.  Foster now works as the school’s student-family engagement coordinator, emphasizing that sense of belonging as kids continue to build a foundation for high school and beyond.

“We're doing it together,” Foster said.  “It's beyond solidarity, but it’s synergy and energy in here.”

More than half of the middle schoolers at Toki are students of color.  Kyle Walsh has only been the principal for the last year, but he said it's been a priority to make sure those kids feel welcome and have adults they can look up to in the building.

“One of our greatest assets and strengths, I think, is our diversity,” Walsh said.

Still, it’s no secret many kids struggle socially, academically, behaviorally and emotionally when they go from elementary school to middle school. UW-Madison education researcher and professor Geoffrey Borman decided to explore the transition in his research.

“Students are entering puberty and going through all of the sort of physical, emotional changes, cognitive changes, at that period of life,” Borman said.  “But then, also piling on top of that, this big change going into middle school from elementary school.”

Borman and his team looked at more 1,300 sixth-graders at all 11 middle schools in Madison and found one of the main struggles for those students was a need to fit in.  From there, the researchers developed a survey, asking adolescents to report their biggest challenges with the transition and what successes they had with the shift to middle school.  They took those responses and shared them with sixth-graders and asked if they resonated with them.  Borman said it was important that those anecdotes and stories came from their peers and not from adults.

“That is something that is much more believable to kids and something that doesn't appear so preachy and something that they have to do.  Rather, this was just simple advice that, 'Look, you know, this is tough for everybody,'” Borman said.

Borman found that by tapping into that feeling of belonging, reinforcing that the struggles are all temporary and reassuring kids that everyone was going through the changes together, students showed higher attendance, better academic performance and fewer behavioral issues.

Specifically, Borman’s team found their work:

  • Reduced disciplinary incidents  by 34%
  • Increased attendance by 12%
  • Reduced the number of failing grades by 18%

Even more exciting, Borman said, is that the low-cost method helped preteens across the board.

“These writing exercises helped all kids.  It didn't matter the color of your skin.  It didn't matter the wealth of your family.  It didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl.  It benefited all kids equally,” Borman said.

Borman said the UW is recreating the study this year at middle schools in Arizona and Texas, hoping to further replicate the results and prove the affordable option works for sixth-graders across geographic lines.  He’s also looking forward to retesting the “self-affirming exercises” with Madison schools, including places such as Toki.

Walsh said he’s open to anything that will help all middle schoolers, especially minority students who might be harder to reach, feel like they’re supported.  It’s why he said he's particularly proud of groups such as the Black Student Union, a club that has gained momentum over the past few years as a place where kids can share their struggles, success stories and suggestions for the school.

“We need student voice.  We need them to help us figure out where we're going because they usually have a better idea than we do,” Walsh said.

“Having that mentality that we can pick each other up and keep moving forward is essential in middle school,” Serwe said.

“It's no 'us or them.'  It has to be both of us,” Foster said.


Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM

October 31, 2019   |   By Colleen Flaherty

From Inside Higher Ed

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine attempts to close the gap between the research on effective mentoring and how it’s practiced. “Because mentorship can be so influential in shaping the future STEMM workforce,” the report says (the final “M” referring to medicine), “its occurrence should not be left to chance or idiosyncratic implementation.” The report’s authors make a number of recommendations to that end, including using evidence-based practices, establishing structured feedback systems, embracing the role of identities in mentorship and adopting multiple, or “constellation,” mentor models.

“Mentors should provide opportunities and support for mentees in mentoring relationships with other individuals within and outside of their home department, program or institution to provide ‘complementary or supplementary functions that enable mentees to progress and succeed.’” Read more here.


‘I know I came from greatness’: Son of West High School staffer leads group seeking change

October 27, 2019   |   By Logan Wroge

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Noah Anderson speaks passionately about the Mali Empire that spanned West Africa from the 13th century to the 17th century.

His appreciation of African history hasn’t always been there, especially during a period of Anderson’s young life when he said he was consumed by self-hate, driven by a dislike of the color of his skin.

But Anderson’s historical appetite flourished through classes at West High School and his involvement with the school’s Black Student Union.

“I know I came from greatness,” Anderson, 18, said. “Nobody can tell me I don’t come from greatness and what my people contributed to civilization of the entire world.”

As a senior at West, Anderson now leads its Black Student Union, which is pushing the Madison School District to better educate students on African American history and the painful connection to historic use of the N-word — the use of which left his father, Marlon Anderson, temporarily without a job at the school and sparked a call to revise a policy that led to the firing.

After Marlon Anderson was fired from his security guard position earlier this month for saying the N-word when he told a disruptive student calling him the slur not to use the word — and subsequently rehired five days later — district officials said a zero-tolerance approach to the use of racial slurs by employees will be reviewed.

West’s Black Student Union, headed up by Noah Anderson as president, is looking to play a big role in revising the policy with the input of black students from across the district.

“Zero-tolerance policies as a whole have always been a way to just shut down conversations,” said Destiny Lloyd, a West senior who sits on the BSU’s executive committee. “If you say, ‘Just don’t do this,’ and you do this and get terminated, you’re diluting it. You’re not putting any attention on the why.”

Learning to love himself

While he was growing up on Madison’s South Side, Noah Anderson said, his parents taught him to love himself and his blackness. But he said throughout his childhood he felt a lot of self-hate, crying at times for no reason.

“It was all because the color of my skin,” Anderson said. “I would look at myself and think I was ugly.”

Anderson attended the predominantly white Franklin and Randall elementary schools, where, he said, he didn’t have black educators he could relate to, making it “very difficult” to engage in class.

“I didn’t really feel like I fit in,” he said.

By the time he was in ninth grade at West High School, Anderson said, he was still struggling with school, joking around in class and not doing his work.

But the school’s multicultural services coordinator, Sean Gray, encouraged him as a freshman to join the Black Student Union.

“He really helped me out, helped me improve my grades, helped me just in so many ways,” Anderson said of Gray.

A combination of being involved in the Black Student Union and learning about his heritage through elective African American history and African studies courses put Anderson on a better path personally and academically, he said.

“I just fell in love with who I am,” said Anderson, who is the middle child of three sons. “I just fell in love with my people and my history.”

He is set on attending a historically black college after graduation, with preferences for Howard University in Washington, D.C., or Clark Atlanta University.

Wherever he goes to college, Anderson said, business and music programs are a must, as he wants to pursue a career in the recording industry.

His mother recognized his “entrepreneurial gene” at a young age, he said. He painted rocks and sold them for $5, and the paper airplanes he folded could fetch up to $10 from other children in the neighborhood.

Music has also been a passion for Anderson, who said both his brothers and father rap while his mother performs spoken word poetry.

He now regularly spends hours a day writing lyrics or working on beats. Anderson describes himself as a “conscious rapper” — in the likes of popular artist J. Cole — aiming to create music that is empowering and uplifting.

Continued discussion

Last week, West’s Black Student Union held conversations with students and staff about how the district administration’s zero-tolerance approach to racial slurs could be amended to better account for context.

In the case of Marlon Anderson, many people argued context was essential. The security guard was telling a disruptive student, who is also black, to stop calling Anderson the N-word, and he repeated the word as he did so.

District officials have said the zero-tolerance policy, which was implemented last year as an interpretation of existing anti-harassment policies but was never formally adopted by the school board, was meant to protect students from harm. But officials have acknowledged the complexity of the Oct. 9 interaction.

Savion Castro, who was appointed to the board in July after the resignation of Mary Burke, met with BSU members Tuesday and Thursday to answer questions and gather feedback for the board.

On Thursday, a few dozen students and a couple of staff members at West came to the lunch hour meeting to weigh in. There were questions on how the policy came to be and how board members usually seek input from students, along with discussions on the complexities around the use of the N-word, how it is used and with whom.

Lloyd, the BSU committee member who also helped facilitate the meeting, said there’s “also a lot of controversy on whether we should use the word within the black community.”

“By no means are we going to settle the great debate about the N-word from this incident,” said Castro, who is black and Puerto Rican.

Lloyd, 17, said the next step is to gather black student unions from all of Madison’s high schools for citywide discussion on how the district should approach the use of slurs and help students be better informed about the historical trauma attached to the N-word.

It was West’s Black Student Union that spent hours organizing a school walkout on Oct. 18 in support of Marlon Anderson, drawing an estimated 1,500 participants.

Although he was a prominent participant in the march, Noah Anderson said it was a group effort, including help from West’s school resource officer to line up a police escort along a nearly two-mile route the students took to get to the district’s headquarters.

“This is the first time students have mobilized en masse to support a staff member who was uniquely qualified to give an education about this word,” Castro said at the BSU meeting. “I think that says a lot.”

Tony Zappia, a social studies teacher at West who attended BSU’s Thursday meeting, told the room it was “moving” to see so many students come together in the walkout from a school he says has problems with separation between the black, brown and white students.

“We know that and we’re working on it, but you guys brought it together,” Zappia said. “It was beautiful.”

Sharing his message

Organizers of a four-day conference by the Minority Student Achievement Network in Downtown Madison on Thursday incorporated the situation at West into a session on the historical use of the N-word.

Marlon Anderson kicked off the session, speaking to more than 100 students from local schools and schools across the country.

The word, he said, was assigned to black people as a way to degrade them and make them feel less than human. Past generations of African Americans weren’t able to tell people not to call them the slur, Anderson said.

“The reason I took a stand is because we live in a society where (words) mean something,” the 48-year-old Anderson said. “You can look somebody in the face and say I don’t identify as that.”

He urged the students not to “be defined by a word and don’t allow yourself to be.”

As a Type 1 diabetic — who said he wants to see a day he can eat a Twinkie without a spike in his blood sugar — Anderson also had a request of the students.

“The cure to diabetes is in this room,” he said. “It’s locked in one of y’all heads, and if you run around with the mindset that you are the N-word, it’ll never be unleashed.”


MSAN students want more teachers of color in Madison

October 26, 2019   |   By Scott Girard

From the Capital Times:

Throughout the rooms on the Madison Concourse Hotel’s second floor, the conversations sounded remarkably similar.

More than 200 people from 19 school districts around the country — including four in Dane County — were discussing how to make their schools better for students of color. From room to room, representation among teachers, in advanced learning class students and in the curriculum itself, were common topics of conversation.

Those conversation points soon turned into action plans the students would bring back to their districts, hopefully improving the situation for themselves and their peers.

Friday was the third day of the Minority Student Achievement Network annual student conference, hosted this year by the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District. Students and staff from as far as Arizona, Virginia and Massachusetts spent three days in Madison talking with each other, hearing from keynote speakers like Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and touring the UW-Madison campus.

“Black love and self love is really important,” said Madison Memorial High School senior Yacouba Traore Jr. “They’ve told us a lot about just having a sense of self, just being you, being important and being relevant.”

His action planning group, which consisted of four attendees from each Madison School District comprehensive high school, came up with the idea of “We Want To See Us,” focusing on representation among the district's teaching corps. Yacouba, who started his school career in the Sun Prairie Area School District, said his 10th grade English class was the first time he had a black teacher.

“It was very monumental in my life,” he said. “I feel like when you have a diverse staff, you learn a lot more because people aren’t afraid to talk about certain things.”

That was a common experience among the MMSD students who spoke with the Cap Times. A fall 2016 report found that 88% of the district’s classroom teachers were white. Andrew West, a sophomore at La Follette High School, said he’s also had just one black teacher in his school career.

“I could be way more successful in school having somebody that looked like me that could relate to me,” Andrew said. “Be able to speak with me and not to me, I heard somebody here say that.”

A staff member of color can also serve as a resource to talk to when a student of color needs to talk to an adult about something personal, Andrew said.

“I feel like they’d understand where I’m coming from,” he said. “I could trust them better.”

He and La Follette senior Eden Gbedey said the students they spoke with from around the country over the three days at MSAN were “shocked to hear about Wisconsin things,” and recent news like the firing of West High School security guard Marlon Anderson and alleged segregation of students for testing in Middleton gave them plenty to share. Eden said the conference provided a “bonding or automatic connection” among attendees because it was an opportunity to be around other students who looked like them.

Memorial junior Andrea Norman said she’s hopeful MMSD will be able to act on the MSAN group’s recommendation, which will be finalized later this year when the students meet again to dive deeper into the topic.

“It is going to be a big step,” she said. “It’s going to be hard.”

For Madison East sophomore Samuel Cann, the conference “empowered me as a black man in America,” and gave him hope they can find solutions working together with their new connections across the district and the country.

“It’s allowed me to have the conversation with others and see where they’re coming from and experience that same goal that we all have and work together to achieve that goal,” Samuel said. “It’s comforting to know we’re not doing this alone.”

He was initially skeptical about coming to the conference as a sophomore, thinking there would be more value in coming when he was older. As the conference neared its end, though, Samuel was “really glad that I came.”

“Now I get to take everything I learned from this conference and go back home and preach it to everyone,” Samuel said. “I hope they can (do this).

“Having that representation, it’s going to have us think that we can make it and we can become better.”


Local event connects minority students with colleges

October 24, 2019   |   By NBC15.com

From NBC 15:

Hundreds of Madison-area students will have the opportunity to learn all about resources available to them in college this weekend.

A local event hosted by MSAN is helping local students connect with colleges.

The event is put on by the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN), and sponsored by the University of Wisconsin.

The goal is to connect students from under-represented groups with colleges and universities, in order to help those students feel more comfortable with the college admissions process.

“I want them to be connected to students who are like them across the country - student advocates, student educators - and I want them to feel genuinely cared for by a larger body of educators,” says Madeline Hafner, executive director of MSAN.

The conference runs through Saturday in downtown Madison. You can learn more here.


Conference brings more than 200 to Madison to discuss equity for students of color

October 23, 2019   |   By Scott Girard

From The Capital Times:

More than 200 people from nine states will be in Madison Wednesday through Saturday to talk about making their schools better for minority students.

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is hosting this year’s Minority Student Achievement Network national conference, an annual gathering of school districts from around the country in its 20th year.

The event at the Madison Concourse Hotel will allow the 168 students and 56 chaperones from 19 school districts to discuss the importance of student voice, hear from guest speakers and develop plans to bring back to their districts.

Middleton High School senior Tianbra Grant, who was on the planning committee, said she sees the conference as “a step forward” on fighting racism.

“You’re not going to change racism in predominantly white schools with one conference a year. It takes time, a long time,” Tianbra said. “It’s OK to change some hearts, a few hearts here and there. If I can change five people out of 10, I still win.”

While visitors will come from as far as Arizona and Massachusetts, four local districts will also take part in the conference: MCPASD as the host and the Madison, Verona Area and Sun Prairie Area school districts as attendees.

Students will tour eight colleges or schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the conference, something MSAN executive director Madeline Hafner said is essential to the event, as they consider what the experience might be like for a student of color on a majority white campus. Hafner is based at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison, and has been the executive director for 12 years. Each conference, she said, is a “hope-filled experience.”

“It really is one of the best parts of my job,” Hafner said. "Their ideas are so complex in the ways they want to address systemic racism, but they're also the most spot on in terms of getting to the crux of the problem."

Among the keynote speakers is Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is scheduled to speak after dinner Wednesday night. Other events include cultural performances and a talent show, time to explore State Street and attending the Black Violin performance Friday night at the Overture Center.

MSAN addresses school disparities in three ways, Hafner said: research, bringing adults in the education system together to discuss the issues and supporting student leadership.

“Our districts are committed to supporting students to guide the work of equity happening in their districts,” she said. “No district does this better than Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District.”

Actions taken out of previous conferences in Middleton have included videos on microaggressions and slurs featuring students and staff talking about what they mean and the importance of understanding how they affect the person on the receiving end.

Creating the schedule and topics for this year’s conference, titled “The Roses That Grew From Concrete,” was a “student-led” process, Grant said. The conference’s title is taken from a Tupac Shakur poem:

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.”

MHS senior Matthew Thompson said he’s looking forward to talking about these topics with others who experience systematic inequities.

“It’s comfortable being in a space of people of color,” Matthew said. “We see people like us and we talk to people like us about our experiences. It’s very empowering just being around that.”

Hafner said that feeling of empowerment is one of her favorite parts of being at the conference, and it’s visible in the ideas that students come up with to bring back to their districts.

“These young people, they know exactly what they and their peers need to be successful,” Hafner said. “To watch them when they get together and have that many students talking to each other from other districts and the synergy that happens in their ideas. Their ideas are so much better when they’re together, they’re stronger.”

Junior Marco Antonio Quechol Ramirez is looking forward to the conference as an opportunity to create a better future for others who look like him.

“I just know that I don’t want my kids to go through this as well in the future and I want change now for future generations,” he said.


UW-Madison researchers receive $1.2M grant to examine decline of early care and education providers

October 22, 2019   |   By Todd Finkelmeyer

From: UW-Madison School of Education

A team of researchers from UW-Madison secured a $1.2 million grant to partner with the State of Wisconsin to examine a significant decline in the number of regulated early care and education (ECE) providers operating over the past 15 years.

Although fluctuations in the market are to be expected, the persistent decline in the number of providers has recently been coupled with a decline in the number of children receiving child care subsidies through the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program. These declines are concerning not only because it might force some children into low-quality or unsafe care environments, but also because it may result in higher prices for the care that is available — as well as lower levels of employment for parents who cannot find affordable ECE care.

Leading this project is Amy Claessens, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies and the associate director of the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (CRECE). She also is an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

Claessens will be working closely with UW–Madison colleagues Alejandra Ros Pilarz and Katherine Magnuson, and Amanda Reeve, policy initiatives advisor with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, to understand these declines. Pilarz and Magnuson both are faculty members with the School of Social Work and Magnuson is the Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP).

“We’re very excited to undertake this important project,” says Claessens, who holds the Gulbrandsen Chair in Early Childhood Education. “It is critically important that working families with young children have access to quality, affordable child care options. Thus, we need to better understand the factors that influence declines in child care supply in order to know where parents do not have access to care for their children."

The project, titled “Understanding Declines in Regulated Child Care Supply and Subsidy Use in Wisconsin,” is being funded by the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

This research partnership is designed to provide an in-depth analysis of factors that may be related to the decline in ECE subsidies across Wisconsin.

Claessens and her colleagues hope to identify potential policy interventions for stemming the declines in regulated ECE supply and subsidy use.

“This partnership is important for working families in Wisconsin," says Claessens. "Because we are working in partnership with DCF, our work will better address their concerns about child care supply and subsidy use, and will be able to inform policies and practices to improve families’ access to quality, affordable care.”


One City Schools Gets $1 Million Grant for Long-term Study on Student Outcomes

October 17, 2019   |   By Scott Girard

From: The Capital Times

Charter school One City is hoping a study of its students’ outcomes could help guide improvements in early childhood education elsewhere.

One City and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health will partner with a $1 million grant, announced Wednesday, for a five-year study of One City’s educational methods and student outcomes.

The funding is through one of six Community Impact Grants through the Wisconsin Partnership Program, each for an initiative to improve health equity across Wisconsin. The news release announcing the 2019 grants states “education is a building block of healthy communities.”

“A grant to One City Schools supports the school’s work to advance health equity through an innovative model of early child education,” the release states. “Findings will be used to inform expansion of the preschool, inform the fields of early childhood education, and help support public policy and system changes around early childhood education.”

The grant will support a five-year “rigorous longitudinal evaluation of the school’s novel approach,” the release states, including its staff training, parent and community engagement and work with children. The study will “better illustrate how its model of early childhood education and family involvement can close educational and health gaps.”

The grant will be a 60-40 split, with 60% of the funding covering the study and 40% going to One City to support professional development for its teachers in its curriculum.

“We’re extremely proud of the grant,” One City founder, president and CEO Kaleem Caire said. “It will help us with our long-term goal to unlock educational innovation and transform public education for our children in Madison and Wisconsin and nationwide.”

One City received a charter in 2018 through the UW System under a new law allowing such authorizations. The school currently serves students in 4K through first grade, and plans to expand each year until it serves students up through sixth grade. Until it received its charter, it had been a private, nonprofit early childhood education center.


Fair Pay To Play Hailed As Game-Changer

October 10, 2019   |   By Roscoe Nance

From Diverse Issues in Higher Education

The Fair Pay To Play Act that California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Sept 30 is being hailed as a game-changer for collegiate athletics.

The Act creates the legal right for college athletes in California to be paid for use of their identities and goes into effect in 2023. That means student athletes can sign endorsement deals with shoe companies such as Nike and adidas, be paid for their autographs and receive money from the sale of paraphernalia bearing their image.

“It does change the game significantly because if student athletes are now going to be able to profit from their likeness, be able to obtain an agent, be able to obtain a contract to make money, the institution is not going to be the first choice those marketing companies, those branding companies go to to make those deals,’’ says Dr. Tomika Ferguson, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University and founder of Black Athlete Sister Circle (BASC).

Dr. Jerlando F.L. Jackson, Distinguished Professor of Higher Education, Department Chair and Director & Chief Research Scientist in the University of Wisconsin’s Equity & Inclusion Laboratory says that he is watching closely to see the impact of the legislation.

“If other states follow, it does address one of the chief issues in the pay to play dynamic,’’ Jackson says. “That dynamic is student athletes  will own their likeness, their name and the ability to put that in the market for themselves. That is probably our best pathway forward to recognizing their contributions.’’

If in 2023, no other state has passed similar legislation, Jackson says “in some ways it’s trading one set of problems for another. But within the context of pay to play, the option of allowing the market to be controlled by the players and what their capacity to bring resources, is of more doable options. The thought that athletic departments would be able  to generate enough resources to recognize and pay student athletes across all sports would certainly be more challenging and significantly impact the landscape of who would be able to maintain and compete.’’

Ferguson, a former track and field athlete at the University of Virginia who walked on but eventually earned a scholarship, says the Act was passed as the result of much tension, confusion and unanswered questions from those who have been fighting for fairness for student athletes in light of the billions of dollars generated by their labor, particularly in revenue generating sports such as football and men’s and women’s basketball.

The NCAA, coaches and athletic administrators are opposed to the California law. They base their opposition to their desire to preserve amateurism in college athletics. Ohio State University director of athletics Gene Smith told USA TODAY the Buckeyes and other schools would not schedule California schools if the Act goes into effect because those schools, in his opinion, would no longer be NCAA members because they would no longer satisfy the amateurism requirement.

Dabo Swinney, coach of the National Champion Clemson University football team, has said that he would leave college coaching if athletes were given access to more money. Swinney is the highest paid coach in the country with a 10-year contract that pays him $9.2 million a year.

“The law challenges where the NCAA is right now in terms of responding to current and former student athletes’ pleas for more attention to their profits and their share in the marketing  and profitability of college athletics,’’ Ferguson says. “However, it does counter the existing policy around being an amateur in college sports.’’

Ferguson says how the NCAA responds, and how quickly it responds, to show it wants to preserve amateurism will have major ramifications.

In the meantime, a number of other state legislators across the country are considering sponsoring bills similar to California’s Fair Pay To Play Act or have already introduced initiatives.  Those states include Colorado, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

“If it’s done (in other states), it will have to be done differently,’’ Ferguson says. “State legislators and colleges and universities will have to have conversations about how this is going to be implemented,  not only about how to preserve amateurism but to be done in a way that it will support state policy. There are a bunch of ramifications.  Will there be social security taxes? Is there a federal impact to this? Is there going be a state benefit? Will they be taxed?  Who will be their employer?  Where will they file? The NCAA will have to work with states and not just the institutions to have this done well.’’

Ferguson says student athletes will have to be a part of the conversations as well.

The Fair Pay To Play Act was sponsored by California Senators Nancy Skinner and Steven Bradford. It was inspired by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, who argued that it is a violation of federal antitrust law for the NCAA to deny Division I men’s basketball and football players compensation for the commercial value of their names, images and likenesses.

Ferguson says it is unclear the number of student athletes who would actually benefit financially from the Fair Pay To Play Act.

“It’s really hard to say,’’ she says. “It’s going to be a small number because there are very few college athletes who become household names across all sports. There are only a few in all sports. I do believe when it’s an Olympic year sports that are not football and basketball like track and field, those athletes might get some attention. I do believe it will be only a few nationally because most college sports are really only popular within their conference and they are really popular within their region, unless they are a Power Five school, until you get into March like with basketball.’’


“No, Wisconsin!”

October 10, 2019   |   By Gloria Ladson-Billings

From Madison 365:

The fight song of the University of Wisconsin is “On Wisconsin.” It is played at all major sporting events and even in a medley at graduations. One verse says, “On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin fight on for her fame. Fight fellows fight, fight, fight we’ll win this game!” However, this past week the UW Alumni Association released a promo video to encourage people to come back to campus for homecoming that could only prompt me to say instead of “On Wisconsin”… “No, Wisconsin!”

The video features the University and its students… some of its students. You see students going to class, football games, biking, hiking, playing in the band, eating pizza—all things students do. However, there is no representation of students of color in the video. Unfortunately, this is a familiar racial faux pas for UW.

Some years ago the university photoshopped a Black student into the student section of the stadium. Its response was to apologize. More recently, a Black student was spat upon by another student and told she did not belong there (despite her incredible performing arts portfolio). About that same time, another Black student was arrested in class in front of his fellow student for doing anti-racist graffiti.

The list of racial microaggressions is too numerous to enumerate, but every day students of color are confronted with reasons they should not feel welcome or safe on the UW campus. UW-Madison is 13 out of 14 (University of Nebraska is worse) Big Ten Conference campuses in the number of students of color. Out of over 44,000 students there are only 593 African American undergrads and 255 African American graduate students.

Before someone thinks I’m hating on UW-Madison, let me be clear, I am not. I was a faculty member on that campus for 26 years. It afforded me a great career. I was the first African-American woman to earn tenure in my School (in 1995). I served for 7 years on the University’s athletic board and was the Big Ten faculty representative. But, I understand how institutions work. Some years ago, I was asked to conduct a workshop for practicing physicians who made the decision to enter academic medicine (become faculty at the Medical School). One of the first things I told them was, “Institutions have no capacity to love you back!” My point was no matter how much you love the university, it cannot love you back. I still believe that. However, just because the university can’t love you does not mean it has the right to abuse you.

What makes the video so egregious is the homecoming committee solicited many student groups to participate in the filming and groups of color did volunteer and participate. All of them were cut in the final editing and somehow no one saw a problem with that. This is a pattern that the university must break. It must stop giving lip service to “equity, diversity, and inclusion.” It must stop using the athletic department as its “diversity program.” It must stop pretending that students of color are all here under some “affirmative action” benevolence. Trust me, after teaching hundreds of students I have had my share of mediocre White students (I’ve had some outstanding ones, too, so save the White tears!).

I am always amazed (and proud) when I see Wisconsin students of color do great things despite their constant marginalization. As a part of the 100th anniversary of the “On Wisconsin” fight song, the university sponsored a contest to re-mix the song. It was the students of color who are a part of our award-winning “First Wave” Scholars program who won that award with an amazing update of the song (see below).

One of my Black students, DeShawn McKinney, not only led the campus’ “Black Lives Matter” effort, he won a Truman Scholarship for his civic engagement, was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, and a Marshall Scholarship winner which afforded him the opportunity to pursue his master’s degree in Oxford, England. Another of my students, Jonathan Williams won the national “Raise Up” competition designed to encourage high school students to stay in school. He later went on to win a fellowship for a highly selective Masters of Fine Arts Program at the University of Florida.

A few years ago, Sports Illustrated named the Wisconsin basketball team the most politically active one in the nation. Star Nigel Hayes regularly spoke out on injustice (and mounted his own respectful protest at the singing of the national anthem) and Bronson Koenig made his was to the protests at Standing Rock to both express his solidarity with other Native peoples and help conduct basketball clinics for the children there. There is not enough room in one column for me to detail all the amazing things I have seen scholars of color accomplish on our campus. The university must do better by them.

My undergraduate classes focus on preparing teachers to teach history and social studies. I remind my students that the rich, powerful, and privileged don’t really need democracy. They have ways of getting what they want whenever they want. No, democracy is what the marginalized, disenfranchised, and underrepresented need. It’s their only hope for true justice and a fair opportunity. So until the university recognizes its needs to attend to the concerns of the most vulnerable among its students (and faculty) we can’t really sing “On Wisconsin.” Our song will be, “No, Wisconsin!”


Report: Perfect attendance would have ‘very modest’ effect on Madison middle school achievement gap

September 25, 2019   |   By Logan Wroge

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

A study released Wednesday looking at Madison middle school attendance and absenteeism suggests perfect attendance would have a "very modest" benefit to closing academic achievement gaps.

The study, conducted by the Madison Education Partnership, looked at rates of attendance and any associated effects for Madison students in grades six through eight, finding that unexcused absences are likely to be "signals" to personal challenges a student is facing rather than a cause of poor academic performance.

It largely aligns with a finding of a similar study on elementary Madison students finished last year by the Madison Education Partnership — a collaborative research effort involving the Madison School District and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research within the UW-Madison School of Education.

"That was a little bit of a surprise," said Katie Eklund, lead researcher on the report. "There was some belief attendance problems had higher correlation with academic achievement as you move into middle school or high school."

Eklund said that while unexcused absences have a negative effect on academic outcomes, other factors like demographics, prior student achievement and time out of school for an illness have a bigger bearing on the gap.

The report also found a significant increase in the number of middle school students who were absent from school without a reason over the six-year period studied.

In grades six to eight, 59% of Madison students had at least one unexcused absence in the 2012-13 school year. The share of middle school students with an unexcused absence increased to 72% for the 2017-18 school year.

Eklund, a UW-Madison assistant professor of educational psychology, said researchers talked with middle school staff to try and get a sense of why more students are missing school, but no conclusion was reached. She said more qualitative information from students could help answer the question.

"It's not exactly clear why we see that increase, we just know that it is happening," she said. "That is part of the reason for diving deeper into why kids are missing school."

Controlling other factors

To determine the impact attendance has on the academic achievement of middle school students, researchers used a model of perfect attendance that takes into account demographics, prior academic outcomes and student health conditions.

The model was used to predict what the gap would be on GPA, reading and math outcomes for students of different races and economic levels compared with the overall student body performance if the attendance rate was the same for all students.

The largest change predicted would be a 0.17-point gain in GPA for black middle school students, representing a 24% reduction in the gap between African American students and the overall middle school student body. Gaps in reading and math performance were predicted to shrink by roughly 5% under perfect attendance for most groups.

The rate of unexcused absences also varies widely among racial, ethnic and economic lines, the study said.

Out of students who had any unexcused absences recorded, the median number of unexcused absences for white middle school students resulted in 0.4 days missed compared to a median of 3.5 days missed through unexcused absences for black students in grades six through eight.

In contract, excused absence rates remained relatively similar across demographic groups.

Even though there are disparities in unexcused absences between student groups, the study said "most of the association between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and student learning is accounted for by factors other than absenteeism, such as health disparities and prior academic achievement."

Eklund said part of the findings that stood out to her is students who had moderate to high rates of unexcused absences in fifth grade either stay consistent in their absenteeism or get worse through middle school.

"The message that sends to me is middle school is a great time to intervene and get on top of attendance concerns, because we know that if we don't, that trajectory just continues or gets worse," she said.

Climate survey

This year, the Madison School District is undertaking a campaign, called "Be Here to Get There," to encourage better attendance for students, including teaching parents how to check on their child's attendance through the student information system and encouraging parents to receive push notifications to their phones if the student is tardy or absent from class.

Student feelings of belonging, safety and respect within their middle schools also correlated to attendance, Eklund said, whereas students who felt more connected to a school showed better attendance.

As part of an annual climate survey, students responded to how likely they are to agree or disagree with statements like, "I feel like I belong in this school," "I feel safe at this school," and "The adults at my school respect the students."

For middle school students who reported they strongly disagreed with the statements, there was a significantly higher rate of unexcused absences.

For example, middle school students who strongly disagreed to a feeling of belonging had a median unexcused absence rate of close to two days as opposed to students who had a strong feeling of belonging having a median of 0.25 days missed through unexcused absences.

"Certainly examining aspects of school climate and engaging in future research on climate to look at that relationship a little bit more would be helpful," Eklund said.


Internships as a High-Impact Practice?

September 23, 2019   |   By Matthew T. Hora

From: Inside Higher Ed
 

College internships are widely viewed across the postsecondary landscape as one of the high-impact practices that campuses should adopt, scale and sustain. The designation of internships as a HIP is based on analyses of the National Survey of Student Engagement data, which show that such practices are significant predictors of student learning and engagement. That has led to a national focus on high-impact practices, along with growing interest in students’ career and transitions to the workforce, with many institutions encouraging or even mandating students to have internships.

But as a researcher engaged in a national study of internships and their relationship to student success, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to proceed with caution when advocating for the widespread adoption of internships. Recommending or requiring that college students have them can be premature, inequitable and potentially dangerous.

Why is this the case?

The first reason is that the evidence on internships is questionable. The National Survey of Student Engagement asks students about their involvement in internships along with co-ops, field experiences, student teaching and clinical placements -- all in one single question. Consequently, the survey might overstate the impact of internships by failing to differentiate among those distinct types of experiential learning that may be embedded in a student’s program. And while some studies on internships do show positive impacts on student outcomes, the effects vary considerably, depending on students’ disciplinary and institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status and the nature of the internship itself.

Thus, accounting for the high degree of variation within internship formats is crucial, but NSSE’s simple yes/no question about participation doesn’t capture such nuances. In our research at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, we’ve found that internships can last from a few days to several months, job-site supervision can range from exemplary to nonexistent, students may earn nothing or more than $15 an hour, and workplace tasks may vary from making photocopies to assisting with an archaeological dig in the field. That is why we aren’t interested in participation rates alone in our studies. Instead, we are exploring the relationship between student outcomes and specific design features of internships, like mentorship quality or duration.

The second reason is that too many campuses are not prepared to offer and monitor safe, high-quality internships. Some institutions in our nationwide College Internship Study do not have adequate staff to perform the quality control needed to ensure that internships aren’t simply a requirement to check off -- or worse, a shady if not illegal arrangement with an unknown employer.

Instead, to increase the prospects that an internship is truly a form of experiential learning, career services offices and departments need staff members and routinized procedures for recruiting and screening employers, ensuring that an educational component exists in students’ work, and for monitoring and evaluating students’ experiences and performance.

Many colleges and universities across the country, especially well-resourced private and public flagship institutions, have exemplary internship programs. But many more campuses are struggling with budget cuts or underfunded career services units that do not have those essential safeguards in place. Unfortunately, too many institutions don’t have the infrastructure to ensure that all internships are, in fact, high-impact practices.

The third and perhaps most troubling problem is the issue of equity and access to internship opportunities. Too many students lack the financial resources, social connections and time to find and pursue an internship. Our research shows that, of the students who have not had an internship, 64 percent wanted to but could not because of: 1) the need to work at their current job, 2) a heavy course load, 3) a lack of opportunities in their field and 4) insufficient pay. That those obstacles disproportionately impact low-income and working students, for whom an internship may be an especially important vehicle for social mobility, should raise red flags for campus leaders.

So what should colleges and universities do? I’m certainly not arguing that they should not promote internships. As a learning scientist who acknowledges how well-crafted experiential learning spaces can be transformative for students -- professionally, intellectually and socially -- one of my goals as a scholar is to see that high-quality internships are made available to every college student. But it is too early to label all internships as opportunities that students should or even must take before they graduate. Instead, higher education institutions should do three things:

1. Focus on institutional capacity first. Institutional leaders should pause any initiatives aimed at scaling up and/or mandating internships until they can take the necessary precautions to ensure those internships are safe, legal and carefully designed. The potentially negative impacts on students’ lives from an inadequately designed or supported internship are too great to rush what in practice are complex new programs.

Perhaps the single most important part of such a planning process is to ensure that colleges, departments or career services units have the capacity to offer safe and high-quality experiential learning opportunities at scale. That means that adequate staff members and advisers are in place to manage employer relations; ensure that intern tasks are meaningful and related to course work; and counsel and monitor students’ experiences before, during and after the internship. Essentially, when creating or expanding internship programs, institutions should invest the same care, time and resources they do to launch a new academic program.

2. Create support systems so that all students can participate in internships. To avoid internships being yet another vehicle for reproducing privilege and thwarting social mobility, institutional leaders should create and sustain support systems for low-income, working and/or first-generation students. Those students are at a particular disadvantage, given the predominance of unpaid internships and the important role that social connections play in securing an internship. Some solutions include only advertising paid positions, providing grants for students seeking unpaid positions and creating ample opportunities for networking.

3. Embed problem-based learning into all academic programs and courses. Finally, higher education leaders must recognize that two of the benefits of internships -- experiential learning and making professional connections -- are also available through well-designed problem-based learning in the classroom. By incorporating real-world problems of practice in hands-on classroom activities, students can apply their academic knowledge to authentic tasks while also sharpening their teamwork and communication skills. Bringing in guest speakers or professionals who can assess final project presentations also gives students opportunities to meet potential employers without leaving the campus.

Granted, these experiences may not be as influential as an internship. But they can be especially effective for students who can’t take time off work or who don’t have access to extensive professional networks.

I have no doubt that certain internships can be life changing for college students. But until we can guarantee that our institutions and employer partners are truly prepared and capable of offering robust, equitable and transformative experiences for all students, an indiscriminate embrace of internships could, in fact, be inimical to our students’ well-being.

Bio

Matthew T. Hora is assistant professor of adult and higher education and the director of the Center for Research on College Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.