Kaleem Caire on MMSD Developments:
Madison Prep on Hold
Kaleem Caire, president/CEO of the Urban League
of Greater Madison, hopes to play a role in defining
how MMSD seeks to close the achievement gap.
“What that means is that we would have a curriculum that would be the same in School X as in School Y as in School Z,” Caire said.
“If kids moved around from school to school, if they were at School A on day one and went to School B on day two, they would be in the
same sequence, the same curriculum. And teachers need to be trained to that.”
As the Baby Boom generation continues its transition to retirement, an influx of new teachers means there is less overall skill and
experience in the Madison public schools — and an opportunity for change.
“The Baby Boom generation is moving out and they have a lot of skills,” Caire said. “They weren’t skill-less folks. And they came into
education at a time when education was a noble profession. It was highly regarded. They came in with a sense of it and they took it
very seriously. At West High School when I went there, there weren’t that many teachers who could not teach. They might have had
perceptual issues about Black kids and didn’t teach all of us the same. But they could teach. Now we have teachers who are very
junior in their abilities and we look at the fourth grade reading scores, it isn’t all because our district poorly performs. It’s because we
have a high number of people who don’t have a lot of background in teaching and we don’t have a professional development plan to
teach them how to teach it, so we get the results that we get.”
And coupled with a standard curriculum and increased professional development, Caire feels that the district should rely more on its
community partners to improve the academic achievement of students of color.
“I think they have to focus on the Parent University,” Caire said about the parent training program that had been proposed as a part of
Building the Future. “We talked to them about curriculum that we planned to use in Madison Prep. And then utilize the three vehicles
they have already with the Schools of Hope program, the AVID program and the PEOPLE program as a pipeline initiative. But they need
to get them to work more closely together. Schools of Hope works with kids who are academically behind. AVID works with kids who
have a 2.0 to 3.5 GPA, if you drop below 2.0 and stay below, you fall out of the program. Then who do you go to? Well you come to
Schools of Hope, eight? Or it should be that way. It isn’t aligned like that. So 70 percent of kids in 9th grade and 65 percent of Latino
kids have below a 2.9 GPA and don’t qualify for AVID. So they should have Schools of Hope, which is designed to support those
students, preparing those kids so they can qualify for a program like AVID, have AVID the next level up and then PEOPLE, which deals
with kids who are capable of getting into college and succeeding. They should be working with one another.”
And a final recommendation that Caire has is for the district to adopt a behavioral interview process so that the district can evaluate
how prospective teachers interact with diverse audiences.
“Do they believe that all kids can learn,” Caire said. “Can they effectively educate and adjust and engage with people who are unlike
themselves naturally? I’m going to take you to the local Black church and network. We’ll watch you and see how you guys network
Change is an opportunity to adapt to the new realities in Madison’s public schools.
By Jonathan Gramling
Part 2 of 2
It’s been a big battle for the past two years. Ever since he introduced the concept
of Madison Prep, an all boys and an all girls charter school, Kaleem Caire has
been absorbed with issues surrounding the closing of the academic achievement
gap between students of color and Euro-American students. After Madison
Superintendent Dan Nerad announced that he would retire in June 2013, efforts to
close the academic achievement gap took on a different context as the Madison
public schools find a new leader.
Although Caire feels that MMSD shouldn’t make any long-term decisions on the
achievement gap plan, which might hamper its search for a new superintendent,
he also feels that there are certain measures that the district can work towards.
In order to limit the negative impact that student mobility has on student
achievement, Caire feels that the district should implement a common curriculum
across the schools.