Boots & Sabers

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0731, 03 Nov 16

MPS Superintendent Announces Reform Plan

It must be noted that she has a lot of work to do to get her plan passed through the school board and that several items will require approval of the state Department of Public Instruction or changes to state law, but let’s look at her ideas.

New report cards will soon identify the latest lowest-performing schools in MPS. There are 53 that meet that definition now. Driver has proposed creating a network to support between 10 to 12 of the lowest-performing schools each year for the next three years, with up to 35 by 2018-’19. The “signature schools” would have a new hiring window in the spring, and then develop individual culture and instructional plans. Teachers would attend at least four days of extra training. Principals would get side-by-side coaching and meet with the superintendent monthly to talk about data.

Meh. I presume that every school has a plan now, but this would make them create new plans, change some hiring practices, and throw some more money at teacher training. I find it hard to believe that the same people who are running a bad school will magically be able to create and execute a plan to fix it.

A unified calendar: All district schools would follow the calendar for International Baccalaureate schools, which start in mid-August and finish before the end of May. A June session would extend the year for five weeks for students who need to recover credits or earn additional credits.

Driver said one calendar could also save hundreds of thousands of dollars on busing and duplicative staff training.

Again, meh. It’s a good idea that will save some money, but it is difficult to see this as something that will improve education for kids.

School uniforms:  Driver said more parents are asking for uniforms, especially after some district schools implemented them this year. Uniforms are frequently a draw for parents who send their children to independent charter and voucher schools, though research is mixed on whether they have any effect on achievement. Driver said uniforms could also help identify MPS students in the community. Or more specifically, identify children who are not MPS students.

Uniforms can be a wonderful policy that helps with culture and discipline within the schools. But even with her plan, individual schools can opt out. I suspect that the schools in which uniforms would have the most positive impact are the sames one in which the policy will be fiercely resisted.

MPS is tiptoeing toward thinking more collectively about student achievement at all schools, including independent charter and voucher programs. Driver is looking to districts like Cleveland and Denver that have established mechanisms for holding all schools accountable, which includeexpanding high-performing schools and limiting low-performing ones.

That’s where the call for turnaround plans in the lowest-performing charter and voucher programs comes from. Driver said all schools should be judged by the same measuring stick.

This is a massive power grab to let MPS have more control over private schools in Milwaukee. This appears to be the heart of Superintendent Driver’s reform plan. It has nothing to do with improving MPS and everything with letting the same people who run a failing school district to take everyone else down with them.

Sain, the School Board president, said MPS becoming the sole chartering authority in the city would reduce the frequency with which some people “shop” their proposals among the city’s three active chartering entities: MPS, the Common Council and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Currently, MPS authorizes about 20 charter schools, the city oversees nine and UWM oversees 12.

See above. This continues the power grab.

Milwaukee has about 50,000 children under age 5, and half live in poverty. Exposing all to quality early-literacy programs, potentially at stand-alone sites, would help make sure they’re all prepared for school, no matter what school their parents eventually send them to.

I suspect that the same parents who are unable or unwilling to teach their children to read before age 5 are also unlikely to take advantage of a program like this. Of course it’s a good idea to teach kids to read, but this just expands the cost and reach of MPS for a dubious benefit. It looks like Driver just wants to expand MPS a bit more.

Superintendent Driver’s initiative is yet another in the long line of failed MPS plans that does a lot to expand the reach, cost, and control of MPS under the guise of helping kids. The question on the lips of every taxpayer should be, why would we give more power and money to the same people who are failing the kids now? Perhaps Driver should demonstrate that she can improve MPS before presuming to know how to improve other schools.


0731, 03 November 2016

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Scheunemann

    More of the same failing MPS marketed as a fake cure to what truly afflicts the system.

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