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Investing in Education is the Path to Prosperity for Wisconsin Students

Strong schools are needed to give students a fighting chance in this tough economy.

News about our economy reinforces just how tough it is in Wisconsin and our nation. A recent study showed that one-third of families are falling out of the middle class. So many families are struggling, and the number of kids in poverty coming through the school door continues to grow.

I’ve seen it in the classrooms I’ve visited to kick off the school year. Classes are larger, taught by far fewer experienced teachers, and there is genuine concern for the future of our public schools. This year’s budget balancing was difficult. Next year will be worse.

There is no question that the loss of more than and $1.6 billion in revenue authority as a result of the 2011-13 state budget will make our schools different. Districts balance their budgets every year, but the price this year has never been higher. Many of Wisconsin’s public schools are in economic peril. While states like Massachusetts and Maryland invested in education, Wisconsin’s biennial budget made the largest cuts to public schools in state history.

The path to prosperity is paved by educating our children. We must move beyond the harsh rhetoric of the past few months and begin the slow process of rebuilding. It will take action, not just words. It will take a sincere investment in our public schools and commitment to public education to undo the damage.

Wisconsin is an education leader in many areas. But, despite nation-leading graduation rates, one in 10 of our high school students drops out. The diminished life chances for these young people are simply unkind. We must do more for them, for all our students. High school graduates have more earning power and more opportunity than students who drop out.

We must ensure that every student graduates ready for college and careers. That means our graduates need the skills to be successful in job training or entry-level college coursework without remediation. It means high school graduates have reading, writing, and computation skills that support the teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking so many employers say they want.

But not every student wants a college degree. Some have different goals and aspirations, which is good. Our schools need to capture student interest and respond to varied learning styles so all students are successful. We waste too many human resources when we have almost 7,000 students who don’t graduate each year.

I speak with urgency about the need to work together, to find common ground. Wisconsin has been slipping in reading achievement. Though we have many differences, I’m working with the governor on the Read to Lead Task Force to improve early reading literacy. We need better assessments that provide quick feedback that can help teachers tailor instruction to student needs. Wisconsin is part of three groups developing new assessments.

Also, we’ve been working on educator effectiveness with teachers and school leaders to ensure that evaluations and staff development meet our goals: to ensure kids have quality teachers in their classrooms and quality educators in their schools. These are areas of common ground that can begin to restore trust and repair the damage that’s been done to public education.

Wisconsin is at a crossroads. If we stay enmeshed in the past, if we continue cutting funds for our public schools, our prosperity will surely suffer. If we invest in public education, the children in our schools will be able to create a future that is much, much brighter.

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Tony Evers is Wisconsin's superintendent of public instruction.

N. Peske October 05, 2011 at 09:18 PM
Was this a recent study? So many of the studies done that I've read about are laughably bad. I am interested in the "correlation"--the problem is people conflate that to causation. Kids with ADHD often have visual processing issues, which may strongly influence their desire for visual stimulation. Instead of seeing gaming as a natural expression of their gifts, and working with them to find the most productive ways to use video and videogames, we (as a culture) rush to condemn videogames for "causing" ADHD. From there, it's a small step to blaming bad parents for "causing" ADHD by allowing their children to play vide ogames. I can't agree that technology is inherently dangerous; a sharpened stone tool left behind by an earlier civilization may have been used as a weapon or a cutting tool to prepare food and create clothing. For more on ADHD and the connection to visual processing disorder, see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20513613 and http://covd.org/Home/AboutVisionLearning/ADDADHDVision/tabid/112/Default.aspx
Nick Poulos October 05, 2011 at 10:08 PM
N.P. (oops, almost gave away your first name): thanks for the link. I will have to ask someone at Tamarack for the names of the people who did the studies. I did attend a review of the data within the last several years, and I believe that one of the doctors sends his children to the Pewaukee area Waldorf school, Prairie Hill. The Steiner movement's concern is with the very young. Do you know the image of the dracula hunter with his crucifix: their reaction to giving a 1, 2, or even 9 year old a hand-held or sticking them with a computer or pad, is nearly as intense as their belief - now supported by fact-based evidence - that very early exposure leads to those conditions, which in turn turn to behavioral and learning issues, that often go for life. I do have 2 kids diagnosed with ADD or ADHD of my own,and I do admit they were not brought up without something stimulating to overmuchness their cortices, ;-)o the Steiner doctors, the waldorf physicians ease up on the stricture as the children grow older, but their attitude is very different from "main stream" . Their program graduates have become some very remarkable people in their respective fields over the years.
N. Peske October 06, 2011 at 01:43 AM
I'll have to see the research, indeed. I did read the two popular books on the "horrors" of TV--The Plug In Drug--was one; I read the footnotes and searched the net to find some of the key research from the 80s and it was, as I say, truly laughable. I'm sure Waldorf is good for some kids but it seems terrible for certain types of learners. Now that 1 in 110 children is being dx'd with autism and we have epidemics of ADHD, and 10 percent of kids have sensory processing disorder, we really need to look at how to educate these kids (mostly boys, about 2 to 1). Many are visual, kinesthetic learners. They're not getting enough movement. They have "nature deprivation disorder." The employment numbers for people with autism is depressing, and ADHD makes you more likely to be unemployed, in prison, and/or have a substance abuse problem. If they're drawn to visual stimulation, we need to work with visual stimulation! If they need movement and hands on learning, we've got to stop cutting recess and offer more labwork in science and the like. Let them express their knowledge through skits, oral presentations, mini movies made on a computer. We can't let these boys (and some girls) slip behind! (P.S. OK to reveal my name)
Nick Poulos October 06, 2011 at 02:04 AM
n.p.: that would give away the gender, and since I am taking a seminar in Shagspeare (can't get a job) ...anway: I did send a request to a friend of mine at Tamarack. She has a hectic schedule, so ...and I dasn't bug her. best
W . Benz November 30, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Everts a Doyle stooge ... Same guy pushing school Logo / name changes . Warriors , Fighting Irish , Falls Indians , ....... Look @ the schools today like Milw..... Tony Baloney

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