Madison East High School

Madison East High School

The previous school year presented many challenges to both teaching and learning. Yet, with the help of a committed and supportive network, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) “exceeded expectations.”

That is according to the recent school district report card released by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). When determining a district’s rating, areas such as achievement, growth and being on-track to graduation are considered. Ratings also take into account certain measures for students with the lowest test scores. This past school year, MMSD scored best in both growth and on-track to graduation.

There is reason to be pleased with MMSD’s rating, especially given the challenges that accompanied the past school year. Yet, as officials at DPI have noted, we need to be cautious when considering the scores.

First, because of the pandemic, testing was suspended in the 2019-20 school year, leaving no comparison data to the year directly before. Additionally, many students chose to opt out of some of the testing, including roughly half of students across MMSD who were eligible to take the English language arts test.

Aside from limited data, it is also important to continue to recognize that all students are not exceeding expectations at the same rate, as shown in various disparities across demographics.

For example, in comparison to the previous reporting years, Asian and white students' scores in Achievement-Language Arts increased, while Black or African American students saw decreases in their scores. And economically disadvantaged students had even more drastic decreases in scores.

Though not exact, similar trends are also prevalent in other categories of the report card. This is consistent with trends we are unfortunately familiar with and emphasizes our need as a district and community to continue to address these opportunity gaps across race and class.

However, even with challenges posed by the pandemic, and disparities across demographics, the report card score nonetheless confirms that the district is on the right path for our scholars, and that we would not have been able to “exceed expectations” without the support system from teachers, staff, alumni and the broader community.

Last fall, when the 2020-21 school year began virtually, teachers and staff at MMSD, with support from the Madison Public Schools Foundation, delivered 2,500 kits to scholars across the district to help them succeed at home. The district also went from handing out 16,000 meals to scholars in the beginning of the school year to nearly 50,000 meals per week as fall progressed. When we phased back into in-person instruction in March of 2021, there was flexibility in ensuring each family could make the choice that worked best for them, and MMSD was very responsive with its plans.

The Madison Public Schools Foundation also believes that we must all play a role in addressing the learning needs of our kids, and our sole purpose at the foundation is to ensure we work with the district and community to this end.

Others found roles to play as well. Through the school year, our alumni community contributed to the success of MMSD, stepping up in ways we had not seen before. Many former students connected, supported and gave back to current MMSD scholars, ensuring that they had the resources they needed to excel in challenging circumstances.

Going forward, the Madison Public Schools Foundation will continue to work with the district to prioritize the needs of scholars and schools, and we hope alumni and community members will join us so we can recover from the pandemic, realize new gains and exceed expectations.

Daniel Nerad is the former superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District and currently serves as the chair-elect of the Board of Directors at the Madison Public Schools Foundation.

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