Governor Jim Doyle last week signed into law Senate Bill 437 – education reform legislation that will help turn around struggling schools in Wisconsin, particularly in Milwaukee.
“This new law is a comprehensive set of reforms that sets a much needed focus on turning around our struggling schools,” Governor Doyle said. “Today, we are dramatically improving the State Superintendent’s ability to turn around struggling schools, particularly those in Milwaukee. This is a good law that will move our system of education forward and address the most important goal – improving the education our kids receive.”
With the new state law, the State Superintendent will have greater authority to address struggling schools. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, the State Superintendent’s powers to turn around struggling schools were limited to withholding certain funding from those schools that need more help.
This new law provides the State Superintendent with much needed tools to make meaningful changes and improve performance at struggling schools, including the ability to:
- Direct struggling school districts to implement a standard, district-wide, research based curriculum;
- Use academic performance to determine the best teaching methods in struggling school districts;
- Direct struggling school districts to implement additional support and early intervention efforts to help students;
- Direct struggling school districts to extend learning time to improve student achievement;
- Direct a school board to implement stronger evaluation systems for teachers and principals in struggling schools;
- Direct a school board to establish a system for placing high quality teachers and leaders in struggling schools;
- Require a school board to adopt criteria for placing principals in schools – including performance evaluations; and
- Direct a school board to implement teacher and principal improvement programs;
The new law also provides specific measures to benefit Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), including:
- Requiring MPS to develop a master plan to fully address aging facilities and school buildings by July 1, 2011;
- Requiring MPS to prepare annual budgets for each school in the district;
- Requiring MPS to collaborate with non-profit and government groups to provide a comprehensive collection of social services and educational supports. This could include access to child care, tutoring, mentoring, health care needs, stable housing and much more; and
- Requiring MPS to develop alternative methods to get a diploma for students who’ve fallen behind and are unlikely to graduate high school.
Since taking office in 2003, Governor Doyle has taken major steps to improve education in Wisconsin. In his first term, the Governor protected schools from a Republican- led State Legislature’s attempt to slash education funding by $400 million – a cut that would have devastated our schools and our students. The Governor increased funding for small class sizes, increased funding for special education, expanded school breakfast programs, expanded 4-year old kindergarten programs and invested in early childhood education. Governor Doyle also created the Wisconsin Covenant, a pathway to higher education for every hardworking Wisconsin student.