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Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutiny

Achievement gap in Madison School District under scrutiny

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Closing the achievement gap in the Madison School District will require a strong core curriculum in school and more support from outside of school, leaders of the district, city and county said Wednesday.

Madison School District Superintendent Jane Belmore, Mayor Paul Soglin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi met Wednesday before the city’s Education Committee to discuss collaborative ways to help struggling students.

The three were in agreement about needs to improve student attendance, foster parent involvement and increase access to after-school programs. Other issues, such as increasing the amount of summer programming, received less attention.

Soglin reiterated many points he detailed earlier Wednesday on his "Waxing America" blog. Those included expanding access to nutritious food outside of school, supporting transportation for students and parents, and increasing the amount of time children spend in learning environments. He said the city, county and district should not limit their search for solutions.

"I would suggest that we not worry about funding. In other words: Design the best programs possible. Then we’ll worry about funding them," Soglin said.

Soglin said he’s looking at successful programs in cities such as Boston and Chicago. Belmore echoed Soglin’s efforts.

"We’re investigating what other cities have done in this area. We’re looking at access for everyone," she said.

Belmore added her focus has been to push literacy to keep students at their grade level.

"This year it’s really been my focus to make sure that everyone has access to a viable and guaranteed curriculum in the area of literacy," she said. "I firmly believe that that’s where we need to have all of our students able to read, listen, speak and comprehend at grade level."

Parisi said he felt the county’s role was to provide support for families with children in the district, similar to early childhood programs being offered at Leopold Elementary School.

Urban League President Kaleem Caire attended and offered comments to the committee. He said he agreed with many of the points, but thought the reforms offered by the group fell short for struggling students.

"Those things alone will not move the needle educationally for the children we serve," Caire said. "We have got to fundamentally look at how we educate our children and also be willing to change it."

Caire urged the committee to include minorities groups in the process and some of the district’s top teachers in their discussions.

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