Change in teaching philosophy yields positive results for Madison schools

Madison superintendent gets high marks from school board

The second annual report released by the Madison Metropolitan School District shows improvements in virtually all areas, from increases in literacy and math scores to graduation rates.

Elementary schools in the district saw an almost 10 point gain over two years in literacy and math.

“Our high school graduation rate continues to move in the right direction almost across the board for every student group,” MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said. “In addition, there are pockets of accelerated results. When it comes to graduation rates, for example the four-year graduation rate for African-American students at La Follette High School increased to 75 percent, a 10 percent point gain.”

Elvehjem Elementary School is symbolic of the improvements seen throughout the district. The school has seen improvements in MAP reading proficiency for grades three through five from 40 percent to 46 percent. For African-American students that number increased from 12 percent to 25 percent. Reading proficiency for special education students improved from 12 percent to 21 percent.

“Knowing that every single kid in this building is getting what they need brings great satisfaction to myself and I think all of the teachers in our building,” said Sarah Larson, the principal at Elvehjem Elementary School.

District leaders attribute the improvements to collaborative efforts by teachers working in teams to meet the individual needs of students. Teachers at each grade level meet regularly to work on plans and goals based on their students.

“Yes we have common materials and resources that we’re going to use across the district for kids who are in and out of our buildings, but how do we take those materials and plan for it, for the kids that are sitting in front of us each day? I think that is the key,” Larson said.

By working in teams the teachers are able to tap into increased resources and develop teaching plans that can meet the needs of a wide range of students.

“I think the more that we know about our students and respond to their individual needs as opposed to trying to implement some cookie cutter approach to curriculum and instruction the better off our students will be,” Cheatham said.