Jarett Fields ER Room:
By Jarett Fields
When the Department of Public Instruction released its second annual school report cards, the results sent a clear message to parents. The report card measured four indicators of every district and school in the state.
Results showed that of all the school districts in Wisconsin, only one failed to meet expectations – Milwaukee Public Schools. News of the results inspired both celebration and anger among parents around the state.
Parents whose children attended high-performing schools praised principals and staff for their dedication and hard work.
At one high school, parents even offered to purchase new laptops for the entire school staff, including maintenance and food service workers.
Parents of children enrolled at independent charter schools joined together and served cake and ice cream in recognition of those schools outpacing all other schools in growth in proficiency.
But just as those parents celebrated the success of their schools, many more parents were angered by the results.
At one elementary school, parents charged the principal’s office demanding to see expenditure totals, teacher evaluations, and professional development records.
The single mother of Tasha Morgan, 7, confronted the child’s math teacher then sat with him for six hours to come up with new lesson plans, specifically targeting her daughter’s weaknesses.
Most shocking though, was parents of one school, that failed to meet expectations, marching with the school’s entire staff to local and state officials’ offices chanting, “Help our kids” and “We deserve better.” In an interview, parents of twins Martin and Malcolm Anderson, told reporters they were fed up with all the misinformation about schools in Milwaukee.
“If I don’t see concrete plans on how to fix the problems in these schools, this is the last you’ll see of us,” said Mr. Anderson. “The statistics for young Black men, like my sons, in Milwaukee are just plain scary,” he continued. During the interview, an anonymous parent yelled out “they don’t want to fix these problems.”
With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Anderson looked into the camera and asked, “Why can’t we just do something about this, we know what the problems are?”
With the exception of the school report cards and their results, none of the above is true.
But, I wish it were. To be clear, I don’t wish for bad schools but I do wish that parents who have children enrolled in schools they find inadequate take action.
Just as I wish parents who made the decision to send their children to high-performing schools celebrate the success of those schools.
When the DPI school report cards were released, they were immediately sucked into unhelpful and unnecessary debates. Proponents of public schools used them to decry charter schools – even though independent charters posted the highest gains across the state – while suburban districts used them to show all the problems in Milwaukee.
Sadly, no one – elected officials included – has used them to begin a constructive conversation about how we increase the good practices of high performing schools, and end the bad practices of struggling schools.
This conversation has to include parents. The fictitious stories above are believable simply because we know there are parents willing to do any and everything necessary to ensure their child receives a quality education.
When parents go wild for their children, it has a clear impact on their child’s education. And, as more and more parents go wild for their children, it has a clear impact on a school.
Parents, elected officials, school leaders, staff, and community members all have a stake in ensuring children throughout Milwaukee, and the state, have quality options. And, if it takes a few parents going wild to inspire action, so be it.
Jarett Fields is State Director of Democrats for Education Reform Send email comments to email@example.com