What and how the schools teach our kids, and who makes those decisions, is one of the most hotly debated issues in the Madison schools. Why? Because it's so closely related to academic success and failure. Almost as important to student success are the plethora of extracurricular activities that can round out the educational experience and inspire kids. We've asked the Madison school board candidates to address both matters.
Here are the responses from the two candidates for Seat 4, Tom Brew and Johnny Winston, Jr.
What role do you see school board members playing in curriculum decisions?
I feel that the school board should offer or make available as many different curriculum choices to the students as possible. The board needs to look at helping all students prepare for life after high school, and if this means offering more choices to the students so that they can better prepare themselves for the challenges of life, then we should do all that we can.
Johnny Winston, Jr.
School board members play an important role in curriculum decisions. The Wisconsin Administrative Code (state law) sets forth the legal requirements that require each school board to develop, adopt and implement a written curriculum plan in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, health, computer literacy, environmental education, physical education, art and music. However, the pedagogy of the curriculum should be relegated to the expertise of district staff. Professional staff members have the knowledge, skills and experience to implement curricula and teach students.
Although staff members are responsible for teaching, board members play an integral role in curriculum evaluation. Members should analyze data to ensure that programs, services and curricula are yielding positive results for students. Programs, services and curricula should also be evaluated on a regular basis using a data driven process.
Curricula that are not proven to be effective should be discontinued. The superintendent and staff should be instructed by the school board to change the curriculum to an evidence-based model that is more effective. Currently, the board has asked the superintendent to develop a task force of national experts to analyze the district's math program. Its findings will determine the future direction of the curriculum.
What extracurricular activities do you recommend that students consider?
Any extra curricular activities should be ones that the student has an interest in and wants to pursue, whether that is arts, language, sports, or any other activity in which the student has an interest. The Madison Metropolitan School District should offer a wide range of after-school and extracurricular activities to our students.
Johnny Winston, Jr.
I would recommend that students consider becoming involved in any extracurricular activities that piqué their individual interest for several reasons.
First, extracurricular activities assist students in fulfilling the district mission of providing "the knowledge and skills needed for academic achievement and a successful life." Second, studies show that attendance improves when students participate in extracurricular activities. Third, these activities assist students when they apply for academic scholarships. To compete for these scholarships, generally students must have an outstanding GPA, high-test scores, excellent recommendations, and be involved in extracurricular activities. Lastly, extracurricular activities are an essential part of what makes the educational experience meaningful for many students.
Extracurricular programs can be linked to the curriculum as a way of extending and enhancing the district's educational programs. Madison Metropolitan School District students are fortunate to have a multitude of activities to become involved in. They include but are not limited to: sports, fine arts, debate, forensics, literary, newspaper, yearbook, science Olympiad, Distributive Education Clubs of America, foreign language and math competitions and Madison School & Community Recreation. Many schools also have culturally specific programs to engage students. In addition to school-based activities, our community has a wide variety of programs for students to participate in to supplement their academic development.