Tag Archives: Milwaukee Public Schools

Why Are Kids Fleeing MPS’ Conventional Schools?

Interesting point from Bruce Thompson at Urban Milwaukee.

For the past two decades, there has been an influential faction, including the Milwaukee teachers’ union (MTEA) and some school board members, that blames MPS’s problems on the availability of charter schools and vouchers for private schools. According to the MTEA and its close ally the Working Families Party, the solution to declining MPS enrollment is to prevent parents from choosing to send their children to charter schools or private schools.

Thus, instead of asking how MPS can better serve its customers, the children and their parents living in Milwaukee, the emphasis is on recreating a monopoly by getting rid of the competition. Ironically, charter schools chartered by MPS are among the most successful, if the state’s school report cards are used as a measure. This is particularly true if one looks at schools with a high percentage of students in poverty.

Partly this reflects the MPS competitive advantage, its ability to offer its empty space to a charter school. However, growing hostility towards charters on the board has made charter school administrators begin to wonder if they should consider switching to another charter authorizer.

Consider what happened to Wendell Harris, the only incumbent running for reelection in April election for school board. Four years ago, Harris ran and won with the support of the MTEA. This year the union is opposing his re-election. His crime? After visiting Carmen and deciding it was a very good school, he voted in favor of its sharing space in Pulaski High School. Essentially, his crime was putting the interest of the students ahead of that of MPS.

The next table lists the candidates for school board in the upcoming election. I think it is safe to say that those in the left-hand column have convinced the MTEA and the Working Families Party that they won’t make Harris’ heresy of approving a charter school application just because it does a good job of educating students.

2019 MTEA Endorsements

2019 MTEA Endorsements

To put this in perspective, conventional MPS schools currently serve around 56 percent of the Milwaukee children whose education is publicly supported, while 39 percent are in independent charter schools or private schools through the choice program. In order to get the Working Families/MTEA endorsement, the candidates in the left-hand column are committed to trying to disrupt the education of 39 percent of Milwaukee’s students.

Budgets are About Priorities

And MPS’ priorities are clear. Ouch.

So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the Facebook page for an upcoming high school reunion, I learned the school is getting a new $5.7 million stadium. The stadium will have artificial grass and a new track for WIAA events. The report I saw didn’t mention metal detectors, but it would be a good idea.

The new stadium is part of an $11 million improvement in athletic facilities for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), presumably so the little convicts can have the best facilities before being sent to the penitentiary.

So the next time someone tells you that MPS needs more money, remind them that more money does not mean a better academic performance. And if they ask for evidence, ask them if $5.7 million could be better spent than on a new stadium for a failing school. And then ask them if the students would be better off with a new track instead of shutting the school down entirely.

At least the artificial turf matches the artificial concern of Wisconsin’s Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, for the well-being of MPS students. Perhaps the new scoreboard can flash the number of kids being pushed through the system without learning anything – not that any of the students will be able to read it.

James Wigderson
Editor
RightWisconsin

MPS Continues Its Empty Building Hoard

smh.

March 10, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – A new WILL report explains how the City of Milwaukee is failing to follow state law, preserving the never-ending vacant school building crisis.  In total, Milwaukee has at least 15 empty school buildings and taxpayers have spent over $10.2 million on maintenance for empty buildings in the last decade.

This problem was supposed to be solved.  In 2015, the state legislature, led by State Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, passed a law to force the City to sell its empty school buildings to private and charter schools.  But, two years later, the City is ignoring state law and the vacant schools problem remains – even though seven different private and charter schools have attempted to purchase these buildings.

MPS Votes for School Uniforms

Good!

The Milwaukee School Board voted, 8-1, Thursday night to require student uniforms for all schools in the district, beginning this fall.

Individual schools and individuals students will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement, but it is likely there will be far more students attending public schools in the city wearing polo shirts and khakis.
School Board member Carol Voss suggested at the meeting that the vote would switch the “default position” for MPS students and schools from not requiring uniforms to requiring uniforms.
Currently, about a third of the 150 schools in MPS have uniform codes. Participation is voluntary and ranges widely from school to school.
MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver said uniforms improve the learning environment in schools and increase safety, improve discipline and enhance school unity.

About a dozen people testified before the board, most of them in opposition to the policy, saying it will stifle individuality and creativity among students.

MPS schools are expected to offer families $20 for each student as a start on purchasing uniforms.

I don’t know why the taxpayers need to give parents money for uniforms. Presumably, the parents clothe their children now. They just have to buy different clothes. Still, uniforms are a positive step. They eliminate a lot of disruption, division, and anxiety from the learning environment.

MPS Continues to Fail Kids

Ouch. That’s more kids in failing schools than there are people in my entire city.

MILWAUKEE – The new report cards on Wisconsin’s schools are out and there is more bad news for parents of students in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Of the 75,766 students in the district, more than half – 42,421 –are in schools rated as “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” Forty-two schools serving 24,447 students are ranked as “fails to meet expectations.”

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.

MPS Not Failing Anymore?

Ola Lisowski drops some knowledge.

While we wait for the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) official report cards to come out in November, the letter provides a little teaser. While MPS is not mentioned by name, Evers writes that “based on the preliminary data…there are no districts eligible for the OSPP in 2016-17.”

[…]

The 42 percent of MPS students not graduating high school in four years will be glad to know their district is succeeding. The 83.5 percent of students not proficient in math will be ecstatic, along with the 74 percent of students not proficient in English.

Everything is just rosy in the halls of MPS schools, says our state DPI. There’s no need for OSPP, as it can only target school districts with two consecutive “failing” scores, and as we know – MPS isn’t failing.

This is a dangerous line of thinking. It’s shortsighted and ignores stubborn things called facts. It is a moral outrage that we would let the kids of Milwaukee graduate with a substandard education.

The latest facts come from the UW Remedial Course Report, which provides a look into remedial education at the UW System. For the first time ever, the UW System publicly released a list of all Wisconsin schools that sent more than six kids into the system who needed remedial education. The facts? Well, they’re ugly.

One hundred seventy-five schools sent more than six kids who needed math remedial education to the UW system. Of those, 160 schools graduated senior classes where more than 10 percent of students required extra help in math. In 76 schools, more than 25 percent of students needed that help. And in 12 schools, 50 percent or more of the graduating class needed remedial education.

A school district should not be considered to be meeting expectations when so many graduates need extra help in college. Remedial education isn’t something to brush off – students pay full tuition for exactly zero credits. Perhaps worse yet, they arrive at UW woefully behind their peers after being told for years that MPS is doing just fine.

It is dangerous thinking. There’s no way that MPS went from dozens of failing schools to zero in one year. There is especially no way that they can claim to NOT be failing when 42% of the kids aren’t even graduating. This looks every bit like the DPI thwarting the legislature’s efforts to fix MPS through procedural gamesmanship. And the kids are worse off for it.

 

Complaint Against MPS Administrator

Three thoughts occur to me.

A top Milwaukee Public Schools administrator exerted undue influence over employees this summer when she solicited principals for contributions to her daughter’s debutante fund, the head of a group that represents MPS principals has claimed.

Regional Superintendent Katrice Cotton also used district materials and facilities to prepare and mail the solicitations on work time, John Weigelt, executive director of the Administrators & Supervisors Council, complained in a letter to top MPS leaders in July.

But MPS denies any wrongdoing by Cotton. Spokeswoman Katie Cunningham said this week that the district conducted a thorough review of the statements in Weigelt’s letter and found “no evidence to substantiate the claims that were made.”

The difference of opinion may underscore some of the tension these days between mid-level managers in MPS — school principals, supervisors and other professional staff — and their bosses in the central office. Cotton, who oversees principals in the district’s East Region, is one of five regional superintendents. Above them is Keith Posley, chief school administration officer, and Superintendent Darienne Driver.

First, I had to look up what a “debutante fund” is. Second, I hate it when people at work solicit for fund raisers for their kids. I don’t do it and it annoys me when others do. Third, look at all of those layers of administration. No wonder MPS is so darn expensive.

Legislature May Cut MPS Funding For Failure to Reform

The power of the legislature is the Power of the Purse. They should use it until the leadership of MPS and Milwaukee cares as much about the kids as the rest of the people in Wisconsin.

The head of the state Senate on Thursday said lawmakers may cut the budget for Milwaukee Public Schools because of local resistance to a turnaround district that prompted a top official to resign.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Republicans were so frustrated with MPS they may push for dramatic changes to how the state’s largest school district operates.

“Unfortunately, I think the only hammer is, ‘Listen, if you’re not going to participate, if you’re going to try to work around the law and we’re going to end up in court over this thing, then you’re probably going to see some significant reduction in revenue for MPS schools related to the opportunity schools.’ And I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I can see already that it’s kind of being teed up that way,” Fitzgerald said Thursday in an interview on “UpFront with Mike Gousha” on WISN-TV.

Milwaukee Lacks Means to Reform MPS

From Wigderson at Wisconsin Watchdog.

Opportunity Schools Partnership Program Commissioner Demond Means announcedhis resignation Wednesday, citing the inability to forge a “collaborative partnership” with Milwaukee Public Schools.

 

[…]

State Rep Dale Kooyenga, an author of the OSPP law, said in a statement released after Means’ resignation that he appreciated Means’ efforts to improve underperforming schools in Milwaukee.  “It is unfortunate that the powers of the status quo were so resistant to working with a man who cares so deeply and has so much to give to the educational community in Wisconsin,” Kooyenga said.

Brett Healy, president of the John K. MacIver institute for Public Policy, said in a statement that Means’ resignation should be “a wake-up call” to Wisconsin that MPS is not serious about fixing its failing schools.

“Dr. Means expressed his frustration over the increasingly adversarial attitudes he encountered in his resignation statement and that kids weren’t the top priority. We wholeheartedly agree,” Healy said. “Rather than working together with the good-faith OSPP effort to give Milwaukee children a better shot at success, MPS and the teachers’ union have thrown one temper tantrum after another.”

“It is clear that the so-called adults running MPS are unwilling to put the 28,000 children trapped in failing schools in their district above their own interests,” Healy said.

MPS Splits with Developers of Malcolm X Academy Building

Remember that this was a deal put together to avoid selling the school to a successful private school that wanted to expand to provide an excellent education to mostly minority children. MPS’ school board is continuing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into an empty building to prevent minority kids from getting an education.

Less than a year after shunning a cash offer from a private school operator for the empty Malcolm X Academy building, MPS is cutting ties with the developer it commissioned to renovate the site — but not before paying between $500,000 and $1 million for work done so far.

The split marks the end of a public-private partnership championed by former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton as “probably the best deal in town” for taxpayers just 11 months ago. The district now says it will proceed independently and hire a new construction manager for the building and sprawling 5-acre parcel at 2760 N. 1st St.

The latest twist was set in motion by a new agreement the Milwaukee School Board approved after meeting in closed session.

At the moment, the district and the developer — 2760 Holdings LLC, formed by Dennis Klein of KBS Construction and James Phelps of JCP Construction — disagree on how much it will cost to settle up on the work done so far. The developers want close to $1 million; MPS says it has determined the cost of the work done to be just under $500,000. The parties are meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation.