By Dr. Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Dr. Howard Fuller, Director, Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University
The children of Milwaukee deserve a quality education regardless of whether they attend Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), a charter school, or a private school through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
A key element to support quality is transparency. Clear, easy to understand, and readily available information, including test score results, helps parents and the public evaluate their schools. Traditional public and charter schools throughout the state have been using publically reported test score results and other data to drive school improvement for years. This transparency extended to the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program through laws enacted in the 2009-11 budget. This fall, for the first time ever, students attending private schools through the state’s Milwaukee Parental Choice Program had their academic progress assessed with the same statewide tests as their public school peers. Results reported this spring showed that some public, charter, and private schools in Milwaukee are doing very well, but too many are not providing the education our children need and deserve.
We believe that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, receiving taxpayer support to attend private Milwaukee schools, must continue to take the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE). All standardized tests, including the WKCE, do not paint an entire picture of a student, and many private schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program take other quality tests. We need to put all the schools in MPS, charter, and choice programs in a common report card. This is especially critical as Wisconsin moves to adopt common core standards, allowing us to mark our performance against a national benchmark. The Legislature should continue current law and change the 2011-13 proposed state budget, which removes the WKCE testing requirement for Milwaukee Parental Choice Program students.
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, signed into law in the spring of 1990, is based on providing choices. It was developed to give low-income and workingclass families more options of where to send their children to school. People of means in Milwaukee already have the resources to exercise choice. We call on the Legislature to maintain the social justice mission of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program by retaining its founding principle to serve low-income and working poor families.
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program needs transparency through WKCE testing and income limits to keep the program open for low-income and working poor families in Milwaukee. We must all work together to improve education for all children in Milwaukee regardless of where they go to school.