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.

Make MPS a real “Sanctuary School District”

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As educators we know that schools should be safe places for ALL students. Yet, under the Trump administration, our students and their families are living with the fear of being torn apart at any moment.
MTEA is joining with our students organized in Youth Empowered in the Struggle to defend against attacks on immigrant communities. We are gathering signatures in support of a school board resolution that would make MPS a sanctuary district.
As a sanctuary district, MPS will not:
• Cooperate with ICE
• Allow ICE on school premises
• Share students’ confidential information.
PetitionA resolution put forth by school board directors Larry Miller and Tatiana Joseph will be before a school board committee on March 23. If it passes committee the resolution will move to the full board meeting for a vote on March 30, so please be prepared to attend this meeting in support.
If  you are interested in circulating a petition in support of the proposed resolution you can download the petition tear off card  or sanctuary petition and return sign copies to the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association office located at 5130 W. Vliet St. or the Voces de la Frontera office located at 1027 S. 5th St.
You can sign a petition in support below:

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NEA applauds MTEA for fighting for Milwaukee public schools and kids

In its latest newsletter, the NEA Center for Organizing applauds members and leaders of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association for the work they have done to improve students’ test scores and divert efforts by Republican legislators and private interests to take over schools. The newsletter says:

victory took place after nearly three years of fighting and resisting a state mandated and legislative takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. Community members and educators stand proud as the first district in the country to successfully resist a state-mandated takeover. Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) blended teacher quality and standards programs with political advocacy, internal growth and strength work, and led with partnerships and coalition building in the community. The state superintendent, Tony Evers, announced on October 12 that Milwaukee test scores have improved to such a degree that they no longer qualify for takeover under state statute.

Through the Great Public Schools “lighthouse” grants NEA helped establish a teaching and learning department to improve teaching standards in the district. The MTEA teaching and learning department annually has three times more participants in its professional development programs than the district where members are paid to attend. The Teaching and Learning department at MTEA has been crucial in two important ways: first, it helped to grow and improve student outcomes which is evident in the increase in scores on the school report cards, and second, it helped to define the union as a place where educators need to go if they want to excel in their field.

MTEA genuinely engaged members of the community, sought input, supported local issues; and garnered true community partnership in the resistance to privatization. By doing walk-ins, holding community forums, canvassing parents’ homes and engaging the community in the struggle, MTEA has created a model that other school districts that are under attack should replicate. If we don’t resist, we won’t win. Milwaukee has proven, even against all odds, that if you do resist, you can win.

Unity, activism helped Milwaukee schools avert takeover scheme, ‘and we don’t intend to let up,’ MTEA’s Mizialko writes

Amy MIzialko

Amy Mizialko

“If the Wisconsin legislature had gotten its way, private charter companies would have taken over at least one more public school in Milwaukee this year — pushing us dangerously near a tipping point to the planned extinction of our school district,” Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Vice President Amy Mizialko writes in LaborNotes.org. “But instead, thanks to the dogged activism of educators, students, parents, and community activists, we have staved off the immediate threat. The takeover commissioner backed away from announcing target schools, then resigned his post. And on October 12 we celebrated the news that our district is out of danger from the takeover law.

“We did it by raising a ruckus, by nurturing a grassroots coalition over the long term, and by sticking to the principle of ‘all for one and one for all.’ And we don’t intend to let up.”

Read Amy’s entire column:

Educators Thwart School Takeover Scheme

If the Wisconsin legislature had gotten its way, private charter companies would have taken over at least one more public school in Milwaukee this year-pushing us dangerously near a tipping point to the planned extinction of our school district. But instead, thanks to the dogged activism of educators, students, parents, and community activists, we have staved off the immediate threat.

Comment on Facebook:

Increased Test Scores Release MPS From Takeover Legislation

kim-banner-copyStatement from MTEA President Kim Schroeder:

Today we welcome an important announcement on the status of the MPS Takeover plan. The Department of Public Instruction and MPS have shared that as a result of improved DPI scores, MPS is no longer at risk of takeover under the current legislation.

The MPS Takeover legislation was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen. I applaud every member who worked tirelessly to fight this unjust law through grassroots organizing and direct action. It is because of the dedication and commitment of MTEA members, parents, and community members, that our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed educational policies.

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

Every child in Wisconsin has the right to a publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public school and the MTEA is deeply committed to ensuring every child, regardless of their zip code, has access to the schools they deserve. MTEA members will continue to fight any attempts to threaten the public schools that have the commitment, capacity, and legal responsibility to educate all children.

In solidarity,

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Kim Schroeder
MTEA President

 

 

Wisconsin Education Association Council President, Ron “Duff” Martin sent a formal letter congratulating MTEA on the news from the Department of Public Instruction.

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MPS rejects takeover plan

The Milwaukee School Board and administration Friday rejected a controversial proposal that would have resulted in the takeover of some schools, saying the plan was vague, the funding plan unclear and elements conflicted with state law. The so-called “recovery district” plan was presented to MPS in April by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and his appointed commissioner, Demond Means.

As an alternative, Superintendent Darienne Driver and MPS School Board President Mark Sain proposed creation of a charter school offering an early childhood program in the former 35th Street Elementary School.

The Abele-Means plan was an outgrowth of a state law drafted by Republican Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills and Rep. Dale Kooyenga of Brookfield and passed as part of the 2015-’17 state budget. The law created what’s known as the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), which critics refer to as the MPS Takeover Plan.

Abele and Means have threatened that rejection of the proposal by MPS could force them to bring in outside operators to run the schools.

In a statement, Driver said MPS has examined the OSPP proposal over the past six weeks and identified the following concerns:

  • The academic and curricular programming lacks detail and clarity.
  • The school funding plan is unclear.
  • The school qualitative reviews outlined in both state law and the OSPP proposal have not been conducted.
  • The request for proposals seeking a school operator was not issued and steps have not been taken to select a school.
  • The OSPP proposal contains elements which contradict the legislation, namely that staff at the OSPP schools will remain employees of the district with little guidance about how this would be compliant with state law.

The statement continued:

Given these concerns, we recently requested a meeting with County Executive Abele and Commissioner Means to discuss an alternative to the OSPP proposal. We know the fundamental needs of our families include greater access to high-quality early childhood education, sustained resources and support, stable school communities, rigorous curriculum led by strong instructional leaders and having a voice in the decisions that impact their children.

With these critical factors in mind, and given that the qualitative analysis as outlined in the OSPP proposal was not completed, selecting a school would be unfair to school communities because they have not had an opportunity to participate in a qualitative review. We have developed an alternative option that will add value and align with the critical work already underway at MPS:

  • Create a high-quality early childhood education program, addressing a community need acknowledged by local leaders and the Speaker’s Task Force on Urban Education.
  • Provide the choice for families to opt-in to OSPP.
  • Locate the program inside the former 35th Street Elementary School, which is well suited to serve our youngest learners; it would share a separate and distinct space in the same building with Assata, an MPS partnership school; this is a model that has been used in the past and allows for improved achievement and better student and family engagement and support at both schools.
  • Next year, as outlined in the OSPP proposal, would be a planning year, with the program opening in the 2017-18 school year.

Improving student outcomes is challenging and much work remains. As a district, we have implemented strategies for school turnaround rooted in collective impact including:

  • Developing intentional, mutually beneficial partnerships.
  • Making data-informed decisions.
  • Implementing research-based programs.
  • Strengthening current infrastructure.
  • Maximizing resources and managing our assets.

Our efforts are yielding results. More students are earning scholarships with a record-breaking $47.8 million awarded this year; more high schools are ranked among the best in the state and nation; and over 100 MPS schools are recognized for promoting positive behaviors by an independent statewide organization. Community engagement is leading to stronger families and a healthier community. With ongoing support from committed community partners, we will continue to see positive results.

MPS is committed to ensuring that all partnerships bring additional value and enhance our current standard of care. In doing this, we must also ensure our school communities are kept intact and we believe our alternative does just that. We are prepared to discuss this alternative with County Executive Abele and Commissioner Means and will continue to keep you informed throughout the process.

Here is a video of the news conference posted by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA):

Teachers react strongly to insult by Rep. Kooyenga

In a Milwaukee forum on education last week, State Rep. Dale Kooyenga insulted teachers everywhere when he suggested they don’t work long enough or hard enough. Specifically, during a discussion of challenges facing Milwaukee Public Schools, he said, the solution might be to say to teachers, “Listen, we’re in a tight spot, we’re all going to get here at seven a.m. and we’re not leaving till five p.m. You need to do that sometimes.”

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Executive Director Lauren Baker, sitting next to Kooyenga, quickly stopped him from going on and said, “We do that every day and then we take work home with us at five p.m. (and we work on weekends). So let’s go easy on that one, OK?”

The video clip generated enormous reaction on both the WEAC Facebook and the MTEA Facebook page, with more than 100 comments on each. Here are just a few of the comments:

Not all the comments were as polite as the ones listed above. Read all the comments on Facebook, and add your comment:

Read more about educator workload:

Workload – WEAC

Resources related to Teacher and ESP Overload Overload epidemic?!? Feeling overloaded? Long days, growing challenges Fighting the stress of teaching to the test NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing This video focuses on the impact of growing teacher workload in Milwaukee Public Schools and the role Milwaukee Teachers’ …

Pierce Elementary First Graders Hold Book Signing Celebration

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How many books did you have published at the completion of first grade? Few people can claim five published works before they even step into second grade, but that’s exactly what the first grade students of Pierce Elementary have done. On Thursday morning, they invited family to school to join them for a book signing celebration.

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The students arrived to the gym to find a red carpet laid out for them leading to the head table where they would be signing their books.

 

The students welcomed family members to their book signing celebration and described some of the things they learned about the writing process.

The students welcomed family members to their book signing celebration and described some of the things they learned about the writing process.

 

The students delivered their completed books to their loved ones, while they singing. Very few had dry eyes during this moving presentation.

The students delivered their completed books to their loved ones, while singing. Very few had dry eyes during this moving presentation.

 

Mrs. Haack, the students teacher, spoke along with several other speakers congratulating the students on their tremendous achievement.

Mrs. Haack, the students teacher, spoke along with several other speakers congratulating the students on their tremendous achievement.

 

And finally the moment the students have been waiting six months for...time to sign!

And finally the moment the students have been waiting six months for…time to sign!

 

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Like any great celebration, the students ended with cake.

Like any great celebration, the students ended with cake.

Pierce Classroom Book Signing Celebration from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Come and Learn About Milwaukee’s Four Community Schools

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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

What you need to know about the shift to Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) programs in Milwaukee Public Schools

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Written by: Kim Schroeder – MTEA President

Administrators & New Furniture vs. Reduced Class Sizes with more 1:1 attention for Children

Background:
On July 1, of 2015 Scott Walker signed into law Wisconsin Act 53. This law phases out the class-size reduction program known as the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program that provides eligible schools per-pupil funding for each low-income K-3 student. The new law replaces SAGE with the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) program. There is no significant difference between the SAGE funding for 2015-2016 and the AGR funding for next school year.

Currently, Milwaukee Public Schools are home to 62 of 325 Wisconsin SAGE schools that receive class size reduction funding for grades K-5 through 3rd. Under the new program, schools that were eligible for SAGE will continue to receive per-pupil funding, but they are no longer under legal obligation to limit class size as long as they incorporate suggested AGR strategies. As a result of the shift to AGR, the MPS administration has proposed an extreme plan to create 62 new positions, which can be teachers or administrators, spend tens of thousands of dollars on classroom refurbishments and eliminate over 120 front-line classroom teacher positions.

 

MPS has softened the impact of their original plan by giving school communities the authority to decide the role of those 62 positions. Who makes that decision is still unclear. And, while every school might want another professional, is it worth losing the class size reduction which has been a hallmark of our early childhood programs in our neediest schools?

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There are 4 serious problems with the MPS Administration’s proposal:

 

  1. This plan hurts our children and families

 

Reviews of major research reveal that our children benefit from the 1:1 attention smaller class sizes provide. MPS’s plan will take those needed resources away from our youngest students.

 

Eliminating well over 120 front-line teaching positions and replacing them with 62 positions that could be administrators takes resources away from our children. This plan and its rationale are not student centered. It would take away valuable in-class support professionals that provide one-on-one attention.

 

Research shows that the benefits from class-size reduction are greater for low-income and minority children. Increasing class sizes will only harm our most vulnerable student population.

 

 

  1. MPS’s current proposal would increase class size for students in grades 1, 2 and 3

 

The move from SAGE to AGR does not require larger class sizes and leaves the decision up to each local school district. MPS will still receive per-pupil funding for all 62 former SAGE schools. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) lets school districts decide how to utilize its recommended strategies, which means there is no need for MPS to abandon limits on class size that ensure educators can give K-3 students the one-on-one attention shown to improve student outcomes.

 

  1. The MPS administration is engaging in an undemocratic process by trying to create 62 potential new administrator positions without school board approval

 

The publicly elected school board has the authority to decide how the school year 2016-17 budget will be spent, yet the district posted 62 administrator positions called Early Childhood Program Coordinators on the employee portal before the elected School Board had even approved the shift in personnel.

 

While the exact number of front-line teaching positions that would be eliminated is not provided, a low estimate of 2 teachers per building would eliminate well over 120 teaching positions!

 

 

  1. MPS class size ratios are already higher than nearby districts

 

Families desire communities with well-resourced public schools with small class sizes. When we look at MPS student to teacher ratios compared to other districts, there is a significant issue of disparity. Increasing the current class size ratio will amplify this imbalance and lead to more families fleeing the Milwaukee Public School system.

 

Class size ratio in other districts :

 

  •         Mequon is 17:1
  •         Glendale 16:1
  •         Waukesha 17:1
  •         South Milwaukee 17:1
  •         Milwaukee 21:1


If we eliminate effective class size reduction strategies, how will MPS attract or retain families?

 

MPS could be using the AGR resources in a way that would ensure smaller class sizes in early grades K-3 that are proven to boost student academic achievement.

 

Here’s what you can do:
First, call your publicly elected School Board member and Terry Falk, citywide school board director. Let the Board know the stories of the children in your classroom. Your voices and those of our families need to be heard.

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Second, show up with your parents and community next Tuesday, April 12th at 5:30 p.m. for the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee of the School Board and bear witness to the value of class size reduction for our kids.

RSVP now!