NEA Leadership Visits Milwaukee to Learn More About Community Schools

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Milwaukee Public Schools has been getting some well-deserved attention for its commitment to the Community Schools model–which has grown from the advocacy of educators in the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

The district established the first three community schools in 2015 and has now expanded to a total of seven thriving community schools. Early growth shows improved school culture and climate, significant increases in literacy rates in early grades, dramatic growth in school and community partnerships, increased math proficiency in early grades, increased community engagement, and increased college and career pathways for students.


Authentic Community Schools link culturally relevant classroom practices with community services, social supports and neighborhood engagement. The Center for Popular Democracy identifies six research-based strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning and community investment. These strategies include: strong culturally relevant curriculum, high quality teaching; shared leadership; community support services; restorative practices; and family and community engagement.

Milwaukee’s early success with the model prompted National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President Becky Pringle, and Secretary Treasurer Princess Moss and members of the NEA Executive Council to visit. NEA’s trip signals the growing interest to strengthen and build the public Community Schools model nationwide.


The visit started with a trip to James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC), where the MPS Administration shared successes and challenges with implementing the Community Schools model.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and her leadership team sit at the table with MTEA leadership and MPS Administration to discuss Community Schools in Milwaukee (Photo: Joe Brusky).

JMAC’s Community School Coordinator and Parent Coordinator provided their expertise to the group. These two positions are critical to establishing engaged parents and community for successful school outcomes.

The Community School Coordinator for James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) presented to the group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Following the visit to JMAC, the group made their way over to the newest Community School in Milwaukee, Lincoln Avenue, where the school’s “Lincoln Cheer Team” greeted them.

The Lincoln Cheer Team greeted the group upon their arrival (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Beck Pringle and Lily Eskelsen Garcia react to the festive welcome (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Lincoln Avenue’s parent coordinator showed off the school’s Parent Center. The center provides a hub for parents to increase engagement in the school’s operation as well as expand access to needed resources, such as Internet and laundry facilities.

Lincoln Avenue’s Parent Coordinator shares the early successes with the Parent Center at the new Community School (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Ryan Hurley of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County spoke on how his organization facilitates community partnerships by helping identify and mobilize neighborhood groups and resources. These neighborhood collaborations provide the school with additional support such as access to health services or other critical needs that must be met to ensure learning occurs.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia observes a reading group (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Finally NEA leadership got to see the model in action. They toured several rooms, including a bilingual kindergarten classroom. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Becky Pringle, and Princess Moss used the opportunity to work and speak with students to experience how students are excelling. The early results on the Community School model are encouraging, but there’s no greater proof of the model’s success than seeing students thriving firsthand. We know when our students’ needs are met they flourish.

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle checks in on a young writer (Photo: Joe Brusky).

As the model grows nationwide, we look forward to making Milwaukee a place for other NEA educators to come and learn about how the model can enhance the quality of classroom practices and increase community involvement. Public community schools galvanize our educators around a vision inclusive of community control of public education which stands in stark contrast to the corporate destruction of our public schools system.

Lincoln Avenue students ask Lily Eskelsen Garcia and MTEA Vice President Amy Mizialko take a photo as they left the school (Photo: Joe Brusky).


Learn more about Community Schools here.

NEA Executive Committee visits MTEA, applauds Community Schools program

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association welcomed the National Education Association Executive Committee to Milwaukee Tuesday. The NEA leaders – including President Lily Eskelsen García, Vice President Becky Pringle and Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss – met with MTEA’s leadership, MPS Administration and United Way representatives to find ways to continue the success and growth of Milwaukee’s seven #CommunitySchools. The group toured and met the students and staff of James Madison Academic Campus (JMAC) and Lincoln Avenue Elementary, both MPS Community Schools. MTEA’s Joe Brusky shared these – and more – photos on the MTEA Facebook page:

Community Schools strengthen neighborhoods, raise achievement, new Brookings Institution paper says

Community Schools lead to improvements in attendance, health, school climate and achievement while strengthening neighborhoods, according to a new research paper by Brookings Institution researcher Reuben Jacobson.

The paper, which is part of the Building Healthy Neighborhoods series, explores the potential for Community Schools to cultivate healthy neighborhoods through partnerships with educators, families, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based institutions, and community members. The Community Schools approach is gaining traction throughout America, and is growing in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin.

Community Schools exist or are being developed in several communities throughout Wisconsin, including MadisonGreen BayOshkoshSun Prairie and Milwaukee. Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured the impressive accomplishments of the Community School program at Auer Avenue School in Milwaukee. It is one of six schools involved in the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership.

An executive summary of Jacobson’s paper says:

The institutions of a neighborhood are vital to its health and economic strength, and public schools are one of the most important shared institutions. They function not only as centers for providing education but also as hubs for communities to organize a range of supports and opportunities for children and their families.

In the growing attention to “place-based” strategies for tackling health and social needs, community schools are commanding attention. Community schools are places where educators, families, nonprofits, businesses, faith- based institutions, and community members form teams and develop partnerships to create the conditions for children to learn and thrive. Such school-based partnerships provide social services and supports, enriching educational opportunities, healthcare, mental health services, adult education, and nutrition programs, with a strong emphasis on equity and making greatest use of the community’s strengths.

Community schools have emerged from America’s long history of exploring schools as community hubs. The number of such schools has grown significantly over the past 10 years, with an estimated 5,000 now in operation. The evidence indicates impacts on attendance, health, school climate, and achievement. But such school-hubs also face challenges that need to be addressed:

  •   Sustained and scalable funding is often lacking.
  •   Cooperating and sharing control with partners is not easy.
  •   “Place” falls on a continuum, requiring any school-hub to be seen as part of a wider network.
  •   The research is growing, but is limited, and data are difficult to collect.

Read the entire report:



Read more about Community School:

Community Schools put students’ needs front and center

Community schools are an outstanding model for public education in the 21st century because they put students’ needs front and center. These schools can include partnerships with health care and social service providers, mentors, and others who offer a range of services, from medical care and counseling for students, to job resources and emergency assistance for parents and others who live in the neighborhood.

MPS scores up; district no longer subject to takeover

The Department of Public Instruction and Milwaukee Public Schools announced Wednesday that – as the result of improved DPI scores – the Milwaukee Public Schools school district is no longer eligible for takeover under the MPS Takeover plan, also known as the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP).

“The OSPP legislation was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen,” said Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) President Kim Schroeder. “The MTEA applauds the work of all educators, parents, and community members who have worked tirelessly to fight this legislation both through grassroots organizing and direct action.

MTEA President Kim Schroeder

MTEA President Kim Schroeder

“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of MPS educators, parents, and community members, our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed education policies.

“We know what works in Milwaukee because we are seeing the results of positive, educator-driven initiatives like the Community School model,” Schroeder said. “We see what happens in public schools where parents, communities, students, and educators are empowered to take ownership of their schools to ensure the success of every child. The OSPP legislation, which threatened to take away local control from the Milwaukee community, is another example of a failed policy created without the expertise of educators who work in our schools.

“Every child in Milwaukee has the right to a publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public school. The MTEA is deeply committed to ensuring every child, regardless of their zip code has access to the schools they deserve.

“MTEA members welcome this news and will continue to fight for the public schools every child deserves.”

WEAC President Ron Martin said he is “extremely proud of the work that is going on in the Milwaukee Public Schools.”

“The educators have worked hard and have demonstrated their commitment to the kids and to the community,” Martin said. “This is an example of why legislators need to get out of the business of pretending to know what is best for our kids and our public schools. Let the real experts provide input as to how we improve and make our schools better than they already are.

“We have known all along that when teachers and parents have the opportunity to work together to make a difference in our public schools it is a win-win situation,” Martin said. “We must continue to advocate for fair funding for all our public schools.

“The Wisconsin Education Association Council applauds the work of the educators in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association. We care deeply about the success of every child in Wisconsin and we are proud of Wisconsin Public Schools.”

MPS said it received a letter from DPI informing the district it will not have to participate in the OSPP program because the district is no longer in the bottom category in the state school report card. Only school districts in the lowest category of the state report card for two consecutive years are required to participate in OSPP.

“While we are energized by the progress we’re making, we still have significant work to do,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver. “We are working with students, staff and dozens of community partners to better prepare all of our young people for success, particularly at the secondary school level.”

In a statement, MPS said it has committed to rethinking high schools by expanding college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes as well as career and technical education offerings. It added:

This year, 21 percent of all MPS high school students are taking a college-level class. The district also added more than 350 students to a culinary arts program as it expands career and technical education options.

While the details of the state report card will not be released until next month, MPS’ local STAR assessment data shows growth in student achievement and signs that the district is closing achievement gaps:

  • Literacy is improving across all grade levels.
  • The number of students on target for proficiency in reading improved last year by two percent.
  • Early reading skills increased significantly, with 51 percent of all K5 and 1st grade students on target at the end of the school year compared to only 43 percent on target at the beginning of the school year.

“We are heading in the right direction. Our collective focus as a community must be on working together to support our young people,” said MPS Board President Mark Sain. “If we continue to do the right thing for our students, we will not fail.”

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DPI: No MPS schools eligible for takeover this year

Just months after Milwaukee Public Schools rebuffed efforts by a legislatively mandated turnaround district to take control of one of its poorly performing schools, MPS appears to have won a reprieve from the takeover law at least for this year.

Investment in Community Schools would help students reach their full potential

Senator Chris Larson

Senator Chris Larson

Governor Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature have underinvested in public schools, and the state should reverse that trend in part by supporting the Community Schools Act, Senator Chris Larson said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. Community Schools, he said, “invest in a holistic approach to education, addressing the complex factors contributing to student learning – like hunger, homelessness, and health care. Just picture schools being the center of a community the way they were meant to be. ”

Here is the complete text of his radio message:

“Hello. This is Senator Chris Larson. Children across Wisconsin are returning to school. As a parent, I have felt firsthand the joys of watching my kids learn, grow, and overcome challenges. This time of year serves as a reminder that equal opportunity and access to a quality education are cornerstone American principles, because we all believe that every child should have the freedom to live a successful life.

“Under Walker and legislative Republicans, our schools have been intentionally underinvested in. Wisconsin must begin focusing on creating school environments that will help students reach their full potential.

“We can do this through proposals like the Community Schools Act, which would invest in a holistic approach to education, addressing the complex factors contributing to student learning – like hunger, homelessness, and health care. Just picture schools being the center of a community the way they were meant to be.

“Further, a poorly crafted funding formula has created inequity between low and high revenue school districts. The quality of your child’s education should not depend on your geographic location, and fixing this reality should be a priority for state leaders.

“The future of Wisconsin is on the line. We must reinvest in our local, neighborhood schools to ensure a bright future for all Wisconsin children. Thank you for listening and good luck to the students, parents, and educators – I hope this school year is a successful one!”



Come and Learn About Milwaukee’s Four Community Schools


Community schools are the future for students in Milwaukee. What is a community school? Come and find out!

Join school staff at the four existing MPS community schools, Milwaukee Public Schools administration, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, Wisconsin Jobs Now, and participating students as they discuss Milwaukee’s vision for community schools.

Come and Learn About Milwaukee’s Four Community Schools.

RSVP below:
Auer Avenue Community School
Bradley Tech
Hopkins Lloyd Community School
James Madison Academic Campus

May 5 Community School Flyer

Community Schools put students’ needs front and center

Community schools are an outstanding model for public education in the 21st century because they put students’ needs front and center. These schools can include partnerships with health care and social service providers, mentors, and others who offer a range of services, from medical care and counseling for students, to job resources and emergency assistance for parents and others who live in the neighborhood.

Community Schools exist or are being developed in several communities throughout Wisconsin, including Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sun Prairie and Milwaukee. Recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured the impressive accomplishments of the Community School program at Auer Avenue School in Milwaukee. It is one of four schools involved in the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership.

What defines a Community School?

  • No two community schools are exactly alike. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that treats all neighborhoods – and all students – the same, community schools are as unique as the children they serve.
  • Successful community schools are built on six pillars:
    • They provide a rich curriculum that includes culturally relevant, robust, and challenging course offerings.
    • They emphasize high-quality teaching instead of testing, including time for educators to collaborate.
    • They provide support services before, during, and after school.
    • They rely on extensive parent and community engagement.
    • They focus on positive discipline practices, resulting in fewer school suspensions and harsh punishments.
    • And they feature inclusive leadership and shared responsibility among the school principal, the Community School Coordinator, and a Community School Committee that includes parents, partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders.

The community school concept is not new; it actually dates to the turn of the 20th century when educators and philosophers such as John Dewey advocated a curriculum that was relevant to the lives of students. These educators argued that the school should be the center of neighborhood life and they wanted the building open and accessible well beyond the school day.

The concept fell in and out of favor over the passing decades. At some points, federal grants have supported the creation of community schools. But the emergence of No Child Left Behind put testing and top-down notions of reform in the driver’s seat.

With ESSA, educators – the ones who know students, parents, and neighborhoods best – have the opportunity to advocate for what we know works, and community schools should be at the top of our list.

Today’s community schools recognize that meeting our students’ needs inside the classroom means recognizing that the unmet needs they have outside the classroom affect their ability and desire to learn.

Read more:

Community Schools: As Unique as the Children They Serve – Lily’s Blackboard

Imagine a school that not only provides rich classes and challenging opportunities for students, but also builds the skills of parents who need help learning English or preparing for the GED. A school that has an inviting, cozy resource center where families who need clothing, emergency housing, or even immigration lawyers get help.

Imagine a School…

Each community school is unique, responsive to and reflective of the needs and aspirations of the students, families, and communities within its reach. However, the most successful of these schools are built on Six Pillars. Listed by @neatoday.

Community Schools

A Community School is at the center of the community – open all day, every day, to everyone – that brings together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof, leading to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.

Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership

The Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership (MCSP) is a collective strategy to transform schools into a place where students, families, staff, and the surrounding community can work together to ensure every student is successful. Community Schools is a proven model to increase a school’s capacity to better engage and align partnerships centered on the self-identified, real-time priorities of schools and communities.


Chris Larson Joins Kluge Elementary Kindergarten Class for “Read Across America”

Senator Chris Larson read "Happy Birthday to You! to a kindergarten class at Kluge Elementary on Tuesday (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

Senator Chris Larson reads “Happy Birthday to You! to a kindergarten class at Kluge Elementary on Tuesday (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

State Senator Chris Larson joined kindergarteners this morning at Kluge Elementary School for this week’s national Read Across America, an initiative started by the National Education Association (NEA). Students enjoyed having a prominent community guest spend time with them reading from the Dr. Seuss classic, “Happy Birthday to You.”

Senator Larson is well known to MTEA members as a strong supporter of public schools, a co sponsor of legislation to build Community Schools and a fierce opponent of the Takeover of MPS. 

Community Schools Initiative helps students achieve

The Sun Prairie Community School Initiative is a partnership and collaboration between individuals and organizations to help students achieve and stay connected with the community. It provides a wide variety of services to students and their families, including after-school sports and other activities in a safe environment with adult supervision.

“Because of these activities, we’re seeing that the kids are more ready for school,” says Mary Ellen Havel-Lang, one of the group’s founding members. “They want to be at school. The attendance numbers have increased. Their progress has increased. We’re getting more parental involvement in the schools.”

One of the Initiative’s programs, Kids Achieve Together, pairs upper middle school and high school kids with elementary school students. Twice a week the older students provide tutoring and physical activities for the younger children.

“These were underachieving students. They met their peers achievement level, with that one-on-one tutoring, in math and they exceeded their peers in reading, because they had a relationship, in a safe environment, that helped them understand and learn those lessons.”

Programs also include mental health services and counseling for alcohol and drug abuse, plus programs aimed not at students, but at their families:

“Financial literacy, computer safety … our non-English speaking parents with help learning enough English to deal with the schools.”

Havel-Lang says the initiative is modeled on similar programs in other communities, and the grassroots organization currently receives no public funding. It was launched in 2010 over concern about the lack of activities for youth in the community, particularly in low-income areas. As a result, meals and nutrition play an important part in the group’s programs.

“We’re in a very actively growing community, and we have seen the increase in poverty in our community,” Havel-Lang says. “Having good nutrition and having food is a critical part of learning. Being hungry is not the situation you want to be in if you want to learn.”

Listen to interview with Mary Ellen Havel-Lang:

Read more:

Community Schools | Sun Prairie, WI – Official Website

‘We’re going to fight this, and we’re going to fight it hard.’


Nearly 400 concerned and committed parents, citizens, educators and supporters of public education came together in Milwaukee over the weekend for a Save Public Schools Community Strategy Session.

The group focused on the devastating impact Governor Walker’s proposed state budget would have on public schools throughout the state, as well as proposals to turn over some Milwaukee public schools to private entities.

“We’re going to fight this and we’re going to fight it hard,” said Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Vice President Kim Schroeder.

State Representative Mandela Barnes said, “The governor’s proposal to lift the cap on vouchers will prove detrimental, not only to public schools in Milwaukee, but public schools across the entire state. It totally divorces the students it was meant to help, which is low income students, to help provide an alternative to them.”

Barnes announced he’s currently drafting a community schools bill.

“A community school is a school that addresses the needs of students individually who are facing the most severe issues, students that need assistance with mental health, physical health, poverty support, parental leadership supports,” he said.

The participants attended sessions that included vouchers for students with special needs, school safety and restorative practices, community schools, how to mobilize parents, how to organize students, using social media for outreach, bilingual education, and more.

The event at the Milwaukee Area Technical College campus was sponsored by AFT Local 212, MTEA, Parents for Public Schools, Schools and Communities United, and Wisconsin Jobs Now.

Video from WITI TV Milwaukee:

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