Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between MMSD Graduation Rates and Student Achievement

Much has been made about the recent (Class of 2017) increase in MMSD high school graduation rates, especially for Black students.

The graph below displays MMSD graduation data (as reported by the DPI) for the past eight years for White, Black, and Hispanic students. As you can see, in 2016-17, Hispanic students showed a 3.3% increase in graduation rate over the previous year and Black students showed an astounding 14.1% increase. Compared to their peers in the Class of 2013 (the year prior to the implementation of the MMSD’s Strategic Framework), the Hispanic and Black students in the Class of 2017 showed an 8.2% and 19.8% increase in graduation rates, respectively. [Read More]

Simpson Street Free Press endorses Donna Hurd Moreland for Madison Common Council district seven. These neighborhoods on Madison’s southwest side need a strong, engaged and independent voice. Moreland is that person. [read more...]
On November 25, 2018, a caravan of families who were marching to the United States to seek asylum became reckless. Their actions fueled the anti-immigrant views President Trump showed during the midterm elections. [read more...]
The right to peacefully protest is protected by the first amendment, so why are people still getting backlash for exercising their constitutional right? Colin Kaepernick-a professional football player-kneeled while the national anthem was playing. [read more...]
I remember the first time I entered the Capital Newspapers building next to my school. I remember seeing professional journalists at work and thinking about how I could be like them one day. At James Wright Free Press I received constructive criticism on my articles from editors and volunteers. This was hard to take at first. My ambition was to be a writer and, at the time, I thought I was fairly good at it. However, with time and effort, I was producing one or more articles every month, and this summer I produced even more. [read more...]
Our community is long past due and immediate action is required. Madison kids can’t read. We will not successfully address this crisis, or the disparities that define our city, if we don’t first bridge achievement gaps. We will never bridge achievement gaps until all students can read. [read more...]
Some students cannot read. What should be done to ensure that all students can read before they get to high school? This is, of course, a tough question. But it’s a question that needs to be asked. It’s sad but true, not all Madison students can read before they get to high school. In fact, in Madison Wisconsin in 2018, less than half of local students are proficient or advanced in reading. This is unacceptable. Too often in Madison we act far too slowly when the lives and futures of black and brown kids are at stake. Now is the time for urgent and immediate action. Extended-day, out-of-school time, opportunities focused on academics and reading will make immediate dents in local achievement gaps. [read more...]
As a junior at La Follette High School, the majority of my school year was focused on preparing for the ACT college entrance exam. The ACT test plays a big role in determining college acceptance, in addition to GPA and other factors. As a student, it sometimes feels like it determines your entire future. Achieving a high score on the ACT greatly improves a student’s chance of being accepted to tougher universities or colleges. [read more...]
he way that behavior is managed in schools can be crucial, especially in this time when “school-to-prison pipelines” are realities for many students. Schools are often quick to impose suspensions that leave students out of classrooms during school-day hours. This problem, however, does not impact all students equally. Across the country, Black students are three times as likely to be suspended than white students, according to findings of the Civil Rights Data Collection. Research shows that placing law enforcement officers in schools only adds to suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests. One way to challenge school-to-prison pipelines is to replace zero tolerance policies with Restorative Justice alternatives. [read more...]
Across the country in 2018, journalists and media experts are calling for more local reporting that follows the money. [read more...]
Black comedy, TV shows, and music are shaping and influencing the way people talk, dress, carry themselves and form attitudes and lifestyles in the United States. [read more...]
Open records watchdogs and clean government advocates call responses by Madison school officials to open records inquires “ugly.” A recent report distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and published in the Wisconsin State Journal says the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) would not fulfill a request for information about public records without payment. Responding to a specific request, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the Madison district required a payment of more than $1,000 to provide the requested information. [read more...]
When I was younger, I loved reading Magic Treehouse, The Baby-Sitters Club, and The Boxcar Children books. I loved how these stories were full of talking animals and inanimate objects coming to life. But I noticed that all of these series’ protagonists, another word for main characters, were white. When I realized this, I also noticed that in the rare times I did read about a young person of color, it made me feel important and almost special in a way. It took me quite a while to pinpoint why. [read more...]
Due to its abundance of fertile land and natural resources, the United States was always destined to be a leading agricultural nation, and as time passes, the value of farming continues to increase. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, in the United States, about 15% of the workforce is employed in agriculture related careers and between 2010 and 2015, and an estimated 54,000 jobs for college graduates were created annually in the agriculture, food, and renewable resources sectors. Considering the importance of agriculture jobs - especially in Wisconsin, the dairy state - encouraging interest in agriculture at MHS could be a valuable and rewarding investment. [read more...]
There are dozens. The names are too many to mention in a short newspaper column. But nobody changed my life more than the Free Press volunteers who helped me learn to read and write. They sat with me and coached me and encouraged me. [read more...]
Yesterday, one of the top local stories was the ‘pilot program’ to disconnect Madison students from social media applications during the school day. As high school students, we usually don’t get too hype about the news, but this was different. A full-scale ban on thirty social media apps. That meant no Snapchat, no Instagram, no Twitter, and seven long class periods. [read more...]
Simpson Street Free Press editors applaud the Wisconsin State Journal editorial published on April 5. We challenge and question the subsequent guest column written by Allen Ebert and the Madison Central Consortium Project also published in the State Journal. Both op-ed pieces address the future of the Madison College downtown site. [read more...]
The city of Waukesha, west of Milwaukee, faces water problems. In the 1980's, Waukesha had to stop drawing water from a 2,200 foot-deep aquifer that paralleled Lake Michigan. This overused aquifer had quickly rising levels of radium and sodium in the water being pumped to the surface. The city decided to open a treatment plant to remove the radium which can potentially cause cancer of the bone, liver, or breast. The idea to extract water from Lake Michigan was proposed. [read more...]
All my life, I have left my home in America every year to fly across the Atlantic and spend my summers in Hungary. [read more...]
For many, 2016 may not have been the best year, but we sure had a great time at Simpson Street Free Press. I want to tell you about some of my best experiences at SSFP in 2016. In the midst of all the good moments, five rise to the top. [read more...]
What is colorism? Colorism is prejudice or discrimination toward people of color that specifically focuses on the relative darkness of an individual’s complexion. I wasn’t quite sure what it really was until I watched a documentary called Dark Girls. Even though I have experienced colorism first hand, Dark Girls reveals experiences of colorism in the U.S. and around the world. [read more...]
If you’re ever looking for a sophisticated bite, look no further than Broadway. The teen editor crew and Assistant Editor, Aarushi Agni, from Simpson Street Free Press made the short walk from our West Broadway office to grab some grub at the newly renovated restaurant and bar, Off Broadway. Off Broadway is the reincarnation of South Bay Lounge, owned by Joe Klinzing at 5404 Raywood Road, Madison, Wisconsin. [read more...]
The forefathers of our democracy believed that “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” While today these words incorporated into the Declaration of Independence might sound outdated, they are just as important as ever. [read more...]
Besides checking on your friends, what do you do on Facebook? Well, if you check the upper right corner of your screen, you will see one-eighth of the page devoted to “Trending News,” which supposedly shows a selection of the days' most popular stories. But a recent article in Gizmodo, revealed that this “Trending News” isn’t actually trending at all. Instead, Facebook hired a team of “news curators,” to handpick which stories “trend” each day. [read more...]
My name is Leila Fletcher, and I’m a 14-year-old staff writer at Simpson Street Free Press (SSFP). I began working at the Free Press in 2013. I have always enjoyed writing and, since I started working at SSFP, my passion for journalism and reporting has soared. My new journalistic knowledge has also helped raise my interest in and awareness of social issues in my community. As a young journalist, I believe that freedom of the press is not just important—but crucial—for American citizens’ knowledge of the world around them. [read more...]
First Amendment rights affect our lives everyday. Our right to the freedom of expression is becoming increasingly prevalent in the 21st century. The recent increase in awareness around crime involving conflict between the public and government officials is creating widespread tension. Consequently, the line between legal and rational reactions and illegal and irrational responses is blurred. Perhaps if the public was a bit more educated regarding their rights—rights guaranteed them by the First Amendment—such problems and tension could be avoided. [read more...]
The 1988 Supreme Court Case Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier examined a Missouri high school administrations’ decision to censor its student newspaper. Particularly, the school board chose to censor student-written pieces about teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce on teens. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that school officials can only censor student papers if they provide a “reasonable educational justification” or prove that such censoring is “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” [read more...]
The coming decision on a new Madison College campus will be one of the most important and lasting decisions this community makes. Locating a college campus in or near South Madison is a game changer. It will dramatically alter how young people, in particular young people of color, are educated. Access to college in Dane County and surrounding area will forever change. [read more...]
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Innocent women and children beings are sold for money to amoral people who base their lives on the principles of supply and demand. [read more...]
“All rocks are on a journey. They have a spirit, a power, a mystery: When you pick up those rocks make sure you put them back again.” --Mike Wiggins, Bad River Tribal Chairman. [read more...]
A recent Simpson Street Free Press editorial regarding student achievement and teachers’ expectations prompted a rebuttal from La Follette’s school newspaper, The Lance. In examining the arguments presented by both sides, I thought they merited further discussion. [read more...]
When I was five my mother took me to an introductory rehearsal of The Tempest at the Young Shakespeare Players theater. My mom talked to the directors and read pamphlets; she was scoping out the program to see if it was something I’d like to do in a few years. But when she decided it was time for us to leave, she found me, of all places, on stage introducing myself and saying I wanted to be in the play. Richard DiPrima, the founder and director of Young Shakespeare Players (YSP), told my mother, “The readiness is all,” a quote from Hamlet. Even though the age minimum to perform was seven, he encouraged me to join. I recently completed my 11th production, Will & Sid Ride Again, and am about to start on my 12th. [read more...]
Graduating college is a significant milestone in life. In most cases it marks the end of an age; scholastic education is over and a professional career begins. While many students find it exciting to be on the cusp of “adulthood,” a good portion are burdened by debt. And now, after graduation, they also face the stress that comes with debt. [read more...]
A few years ago I attended a school that lacked diversity. I tended to stick with a group of other Hispanic students. We didn’t feel like our school had a place for us. Members of our group didn’t get the experience of being in sports or clubs, and many of my Hispanic friends were not very engaged with their academics. [read more...]
The achievement gap is very prevalent in my school on a day-to-day basis. From the lack of minority students taking honors classes, to the over abundance of minority students occupying the hallways during valuable class time, the continuously nagging minority achievement gap prevails. [read more...]
At a recent Simpson Street Free Press event, David Maraniss, associate-editor of the Washington Post distilled the attitudes of the Obama administration toward a free press in a single word: “chilling.” [read more...]
Memorial High School provides many unique and innovative art and music classes. Most students at my school have the opportunity to learn how to use a glass torch, handle a throwing wheel, create animations, sing in a choir, and play an instrument. Not only do these arts programs teach fine art and music, many studies have shown that arts education helps with overall academic achievement. [read more...]
As a recent graduate, I spent much time this past summer reminiscing about my four years of high school. Thousands of Madison-area high school seniors, like myself, eagerly walked across the stage in order to receive high school diplomas. We were filled with joy to be finished with an important chapter in our education. [read more...]
I am disappointed to hear some local leaders suggest we search other cities for solutions to our achievement gaps. Locally driven solutions are often best. There are many excellent examples here in southern Wisconsin. The AVID/TOPS college preparatory program shows real promise. This innovative school-community partnership is gaining national attention. [read more...]
In 2006, 49 percent of Wisconsin’s African-American seniors graduated from high school. That figure is 32 percentage points below the state average for all students. Numbers like those are saddening and make me realize that the achievement gap is still very wide, and a lot of work needs to be done. [read more...]
So it started out like this. I got a phone call from my husband as I was driving home from work that day. He said, “I am NOT kidding and I never kid with you about something like this…(pause). Ichiro just got traded to the Yankees…(pause). Just come home.” [read more...]
Nichelle Nichols is a graduate of Madison’s public schools. She is also raising four sons who are attending Madison schools. As part of her professional career, she is active in the schools working for the Urban League to coordinate the Schools of Hope tutoring program. Now, Nichelle Nichols is running for Seat 1 on the Madison school board. [read more...]
“Education should be the top priority in our city.” This statement was made to us during a recent interview with Madison school board candidate Mary Burke. [read more...]
The Madison School District is facing more budget cuts than ever and music programs will be among the first to go. Just in the last few years, one entire orchestra was cut from the Madison Memorial music program and more cuts will follow. For example, the music department is in need of important items such as instruments and stands, but no funds are available from the school district. [read more...]
Every year, wild snakes, lizards, scorpions, and other animals make long journeys from their homes to the U.S. to feed consumers’ cravings for exotic pets. If these foreign animals happen to escape, they migrate to places with conditions similar to their native habitats. When they find a suitable place, they invade. [read more...]
Everyone is their own person. Everyone has unique and special qualities about them, yet we try so hard to follow the crowd. We are all guilty of committing this crime, but we all have had moments when we’ve tried to go against the grain. [read more...]
Do you remember the “Golden Rule?” This is a common name for the belief that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. For many it is the number one rule to live by. [read more...]
The editors of the Simpson Street Free Press strongly support the Urban League of Greater Madison’s proposal for a new charter school in south Madison. [read more...]
By now, many of you have read or heard about Amy Chua’s controversial essay titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” This opinion piece ran in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial section recently. Many people, including me, were in utter shock after reading about her military-like way of raising children. I was appalled, angry, and indignant at Chua’s words. [read more...]
“We need to be the change that we want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi [read more...]
Every student loves a half-day. Especially in high school, we really appreciate a break. But there is a downside to half days: getting hungry in the class that’s usually just before lunch, regardless of the time. [read more...]
During recent political unrest in Egypt, the Egyptian government attempted to suppress the uprisings by cutting off all access to the Internet and text messaging. For six months, Egyptians had been organizing demonstrations against their government. By January, the government was losing control over its citizens, and revolution was imminent. [read more...]
In editorials and columns printed in this newspaper and other publications, Free Press writers have worked hard to address academic achievement gaps. In tough economic times, budgets should be carefully scrutinized. It stands to reason that during these tough times, youth programs that achieve the best results and non-profit organizations that spend charitable dollars and tax dollars most efficiently should be priorities. [read more...]
The other day, as I do almost everyday, I walked into my calculus class. A student wrote on the whiteboard “What is the plural of octopus?” Immediately, the whole class discussed this noisily. “It’s octopi, definitely,” or “it might be octopuses, but octopi sounds right” could be heard. [read more...]
Five years ago Harvard University President, Larry Somers sparked a nation-wide controversy when he said that women and girls may not have the same aptitude for math and science as their male counterparts. Part of what made these comments so controversial is that Somers is a well-known national figure. He currently serves as a Senior Economic Advisor with the Obama Administration. [read more...]
Picture this: you're shopping in a store and passing by the giant display of toys from the latest kids movie and casually glance at it. Suddenly a little boy and his father pass by the same display, but instead of glancing briefly over it and moving on, they stop in front of it, though certainly not by the father's insistence. [read more...]
Veteran Simpson Street Free Press columnist and reporter Adaeze Okoli was recently named Senior Teen Editor of our paper. Adaeze is a junior at Middleton High School and has been a Free Press staff writer for more than four years. [read more...]
Historically, Madison West High School has not had a spotless record regarding race relations. Before and during the 1990’s, the school was accused by some of segregation. Most white students had their lockers on the second floor, while most minority students used lockers on the ground floor. [read more...]
American history is steeped in war. We’ve fought the British, the Germans, the Native Americans, and even each other. As our enemies changed, so did our reasons for fighting. We fought first for our freedom, then for the land, and later for our rights. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have lived and died for America. [read more...]
Those of us who worked on and discussed this editorial piece are teenagers. We do know something about this subject. [read more...]
Word games such as Scrabble, Text Twist, Bookworm, Hangman, and Wheel of Fortune all contribute to vocabulary skills. [read more...]
Breakthroughs in technology allow all of us to be more connected today than ever. People can transfer songs, games, messages and pictures from cell phone to cell phone. However, with all the capabilities that technology offers, it is very easy for private things to be made public. [read more...]
Social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook are popular ways to keep in touch with friends and family. Although it may be fun to share your information on a social networking page, it is very easy to share too much. Thousands of people will be able to and may end up seeing the information you post. If you are not careful, a perfect stranger can get a hold of your personal information. Here are some tips that you can use to avoid dangerous situations. [read more...]
Significant reductions in arts education funding is a sore point for many education officials. It is for me, too. A recent survey shows that arts education is decreasing in American schools. More and more seemingly inevitable budget cuts make this a problem that will not go away soon. [read more...]
It’s Saturday night. Red and blue plastic cups are scattered across the floor. You are wasted. You stand up and attempt to walk, but you struggle with each step. [read more...]
“The end is near” can be seen painted across posters in many apocalyptic movies such as The Road. You might think that seeing such an announcement in the real world would be a rarity. However, doomsday ideas have a long history and seem to be in constant circulation all around the world. [read more...]
Recently Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad paid a visit to the Simpson Street Free Press newsroom. We based our discussion on Nerad’s recent speech at Wright Middle School, talking about the current state of the Madison School District and what needs to happen for students to be successful in a diverse and global society. [read more...]
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” [read more...]
I am lucky. I have been playing the violin since I was in the fourth grade. I was exposed to music at an early age and music has helped me gain skills that have enhanced my school career. Through music, I learned self-confidence, self-discipline, time management, cooperation, and study skills. [read more...]