By Ariele Vaccaro
Not long after releasing a mostly positive milestone report, Milwaukee Succeeds got word that it would be receiving $5 million over the course of the next four years to continue its work toward improving education for the city’s students.
The grant is coming as a donation from five organizations, including Bader Philanthropies, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Herb Kohl Charities, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.
Milwaukee Succeeds will use the funds to attain their 2020 goals. Among the most crucial is the improvement of eighth grade literacy.
According to the milestone report, that number fell from 17 to 16 percent of eighth graders reading at proficient or advanced levels between the 2013 and 2014 school years.
Otherwise, all math and reading scores for third and eighth graders increased, if only by a couple percentage points.
According to Milwaukee Succeeds Executive Director Danae Davis, those modest increases are going to grow every year.
“If it’s moving in the right direction, then I think that people should be excited about our ability to get to 2020,” said Davis.
She thinks the organization’s ability to adapt, jettison practices that aren’t working, and push those that show tangible results give it an edge over the typical five-year plan.
“We’re continuously changing to improve,” Davis said.
Currently, Milwaukee Succeeds relies heavily on volunteer support to help it pilot and gather data on new ideas before introducing them.
Groups at Milwaukee Succeeds’ helm include a number of businesses and educational entities like the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Northwestern Mutual, and even some you might not expect to see at the same table.
Charter, private, and public school representatives have been with the organization since its beginning in 2011.
Davis admitted that, in the beginning, encouraging leaders from different institutions to take on Milwaukee Succeeds’ unbiased approach to educational improvement wasn’t easy.
“In the very first years it was pretty rough,” said Davis.
She noted that since then, tensions have lessened and everyone is facing a common goal.
And that’s where Milwaukee Succeeds gets its strength.
The organization will have its work cut out for it.
Before the year 2020, Milwaukee Succeeds aims to better immunization rates, higher quality child care services, more parental involvement, increased resources for teachers, more pointed, age-specific tutoring services, and a litany of others.
With the donation, however, Davis has high expectations.
“We’re going to put our money where our mouth is,” said Davis.