By Michael Bonds
President Milwaukee Board of School Directors
Over the past two months, there’s been a lot of attention focused on Milwaukee Public Schools’ Strategic Objectives or Eight Big Ideas.
Focused around our core principles of Student Achievement; Student, Family and Community Engagement; and Effective and Efficient Operations, these forward-thinking efforts are designed to create both a long-term and short-term road map to improve student achievement in MPS.
Recent community listening sessions have provided vital feedback and are building community support for this work.
Even while these efforts are moving forward, considerable efforts are taking place in our classrooms right now around key programs helping our students reach their fullest potential.
While some of these initiatives are in their early stages, I’m pleased that this work is showing promising results that indicate we’re headed in the right direction.
I’m proud to share a few examples with you of ways MPS is improving student outcomes now.
MPS’ Commitment Schools Initiative, designed to transform underperforming schools into high-performing schools, has early indications of progress.
In just the first year of the program, initial test results show the schools are narrowing reading and mathematics achievement gaps in most grades from kindergarten through 8th. MPS will receive data for high school grades in the spring.
The 14 Commitment Schools are implementing rigorous, school-specific academic and behavioral interventions with the ultimate goal of achieving greater college and career readiness.
While these 14 schools are receiving the most intensive support, all of the district’s schools that received the lowest ratings on the most recent state report card are receiving assistance.
The support of the GE Foundation, through a $20.4 million grant, is creating model GE Foundation Schools where best practices can be studied and replicated by other MPS schools.
Initially focused on Common Core implementation, GE Foundation Schools are models for collaborative learning and cooperation. Several GE Foundation Schools, including Franklin Pierce Elementary, are making remarkable progress.
The 5-in-1 Collaborative is a unique partnership that brings the energy of MPS together with other major partners – Northwestern Mutual, City Year, Teach for America and Schools That Can Milwaukee – to pursue academic excellence at Carver Academy, a historically underperforming school on Milwaukee’s north side.
The team is working to reinforce a school culture that has become laser focused on learning and improving attendance and behavior.
Partners are bringing their expertise and their commitments to make Carver a model of success.
The majority of grades at the school are making significant success in closing the gap in both reading and math.
MPS is working in partnership with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County to support a MPS Community Schools Partnership at three schools – Auer Avenue School, Bradley Technology and Trade High School and James Madison Academic Campus. Working together, we are partnering to help fund three Community School coordinators.
Based on a successful program in Cincinnati, these coordinators are working to bring the schools and community together to develop resources and create opportunities to improve student achievement and the school-community climate.
Milwaukee Public Schools is working closely with Milwaukee Succeeds on a pilot program focused on foundational reading skills for students and teach coaching at Gwen T. Jackson and Clarke Street elementary schools.
Early findings show encouraging results and promising growth in students participating in the program.
Other efforts to improve student achievement include:
• Creating more high-performing schools. Examples include the expansion of Gold Meir, the district’s premier school for elementary gifted and talented students, to include a high school, and adding additional seats to Reagan Preparatory High School, one of the top high schools in Wisconsin, according to U.S. News and World Report.
• Expanding successful and popular programs. Examples include establishing the Rufus King Middle Years International Baccalaureate program and moving it in fall 2016 to renovated space at the former Malcolm X Academy location; creating Lloyd Barbee Montessori and Howard Avenue Montessori schools to meet growing parental demand for Montessori programs; and designing a new elementary arts program at Kluge School.
MPS is dedicated to continuing to find new opportunities to improve student outcomes and to work with various community partners to explore ways to help all students achieve great things.