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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Fair
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Tepid response to Nerad's plan to close achievement gap in Madison school district

Nerad emphasized his presentation was merely a framework for a final plan.
Credit:Nathan J. Comp
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Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad unveiled his long awaited, and much anticipated plan to close the district's more than 40-year-old racial achievement gap Monday night before the full school board and around 75 citizens who packed into a room inside the Fitchburg library.

The 109-page plan, titled "Building Our Future: The Preliminary Plan for Eliminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievement," makes about 40 recommendations at a cost of $60.3 million over the next five years.

Several recommendations called for building on existing programs, like AVID/TOPS, an acclaimed program that focuses on students in the academic middle.

Others, like a "parent university," a model school for culturally relevant teaching, career academies within the high schools and a student-run youth court, would be new to the district.

The six areas the plan focuses on are: academic instruction and support, college and career readiness, culturally responsive practices, school safety, family engagement and workforce diversity.

Nerad emphasized his presentation was merely a framework for a final plan, telling citizens they can ask questions and give input during the nine community forums scheduled over the next two months.

Response to the plan was tepid. Retiring board member Lucy Mathiak called it "a nice speech."

Arlene Silviera, who is up for re-election in April, said Nerad hadn't presented enough for her to make an informed decision.

School board candidate Nichelle Nichols, who is seeking Silviera's board seat, said parts of the plan, like the emphasis on literacy in grade school, resonated with her. "But I'll have to wait before forming an opinion," she said.

Don Severson, president of Active Citizens for Education, a district watchdog group, said the plan seemed like "more programs, more staff, more things to do," but "it didn't address the things that aren't working."

Nerad will deliver his funding recommendations to the board once the plan is finalized.

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