NEA Leadership Visits Milwaukee to Learn More About Community Schools

DSC05295 copy
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:

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:

NEA Today spotlights work of union leader Sequanna Taylor, an ESP and Milwaukee County supervisor

Sequanna Taylor

Sequanna Taylor

You think you just don’t have time to be an advocate for your union or public education? Check out Sequanna Taylor, who is spotlighted this month in NEA Today.

The mother of four, Taylor is the parent engagement specialist at Golda Meir School, president of the Milwaukee Educational Assistants’ Association Council (MEAA), and a board member with Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). She is also on the Education Support Professionals (ESP) Committee of the Wisconsin Education Association Council and a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly.

Nationally, Taylor networks with ESPs at NEA ESP conferences such as the latest event she attended in March in Orlando, Fla.

But she hasn’t stopped there.

Last spring, she won election as a Milwaukee County supervisor!

“When that seat became available, I knew I couldn’t just sit around,” she says. “My union prepared and encouraged me to seek higher office, so if the county is going to speak for our students and schools, then I am going to fight from within the system.”

As a county supervisor, she says, “I see firsthand how community issues such as affordable housing, proper nutrition, and decent health care overflows into schools. How can a student focus on learning when they are worried about their next meal or whether or not they have a place to stay for the night?”

A Milwaukee native, Taylor attended South Division High School and has an associate’s degree in criminal justice and bachelor’s degree in human services. She is also a graduate of an eight-month leadership-training program sponsored by Emerge Wisconsin, a national organization active in 14 states that prepares women to run for political office.

Taylor says ESPs nationwide are considered by many as the foundation of their schools since more than 70 percent live, shop, vote, and worship in the same district where they work.

“In Milwaukee, many of us, or our children, attended the same schools where we work,” she says. “Community residents are more likely to listen to someone they know … who they see at school and in the neighborhood.”

Read entire NEA Today article:

ESP Sequanna Taylor Advocates for Students as a Milwaukee County Supervisor

The new law not only sparked massive protests at the state capitol in Madison, it set off something deeply personal in Taylor herself. “I drove to the statehouse for a rally and the moment I stepped onto the grounds I knew I needed to be in the meat of things,” she says.

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.”

Comment on Facebook:

Read more:

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.

Takeover Commissioner Means’ resignation a victory for Milwaukee students and community, MTEA says

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) President Kim Schroeder Wednesday released the following statement on the resignation of Chris Abele’s appointed Takeover commissioner, Demond Means:

“Demond Means’ decision to resign from his role as OSPP Takeover commissioner is a victory for parents, students, and community members who have been fighting to keep Milwaukee Public Schools in the hands of a democratically elected school board.

“Public schools are based on local control and local decision making. It is uncertain how any advocate of public education can willingly spearhead a plan that would force a public school district to give up local control.

“We hope that Means’ resignation leads to swift and serious action among state legislators to fully support the students of MPS with adequate funding to provide our students with the resources they deserve, including certified educators, lower class sizes for more one-on-one support, inviting classrooms and well rounded curriculum.

“The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association remains committed to work towards a solution that honors the right of every child in Milwaukee to have a quality public education, regardless of their zip code. We will continue to resist any attack on our community’s fundamental democratic rights that would remove public institutions from the control of our publicly elected school board.”

Read more:

Demond Means resigns as leader of Milwaukee turnaround district

By of the Demond Means, the Mequon-Thiensville superintendent tapped by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to lead a state-mandated school turnaround district, resigned on Wednesday. “Over the last several months, it has become clear to me that efforts to implement the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program law will become increasingly adversarial at a time when adversity is the last thing our children need,” Means said in a statement.

ESP Sequanna Taylor advocates for students as a Milwaukee County Supervisor

From NEA.org
By John Rosales

Sequanna Taylor

Sequanna Taylor

After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed the ominous Act 10 into law in March 2011, Sequanna Taylor was curious how the new legislation affected her job as a parent engagement specialist at the Golda Meir School in Milwaukee. After investigating, everything she heard from colleagues about this right-to-work (for less) law made her temperature rise.

“The law stripped most public unions of collective bargaining rights and changed the relationship between educators, the union and school district … for the worse,” Taylor says.

The new law not only sparked massive protests at the state capitol in Madison, it set off something deeply personal in Taylor herself.

“I drove to the statehouse for a rally and the moment I stepped onto the grounds I knew I needed to be in the meat of things,” she says. “I saw how my union stepped up for students and schools and I wanted to do my part.”

In 2014, Taylor became president of that union, the Milwaukee Educational Assistants’ Association Council (MEAA), and a board member with Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). She is also on the Education Support Professionals (ESP) Committee of the Wisconsin Education Association Council and a delegate to the NEA Representative Assembly.

But she hasn’t stopped there.

When a seat opened up for Milwaukee County Board Supervisor of District 2, Taylor joined the race and was elected April 5.

“When that seat became available, I knew I couldn’t just sit around,” she says. “My union prepared and encouraged me to seek higher office, so if the county is going to speak for our students and schools, then I am going to fight from within the system.”

With her parents and four children (ranging in age from 18 to 9) also residing in the district, Taylor has a vested interest in ensuring that the needs of children and the elderly “are not tossed by the wayside.”

“I got into politics to represent, inform and help my constituents with a voice at the table,” says Taylor, a former special education paraeducator who became Meir’s parent coordinator in 2014.

The MEAA Council represents 850 education support professionals and is one of four bargaining units within the 4,500-member MTEA.

“We are excited to have MTEA members elected into local leadership positions,” says MTEA President Kim Schroeder. “We don’t want to settle for politicians that make blanket statements in support of education. We want to elect strong individuals who have real progressive experiences in the trenches fighting for quality public education.”

As a county supervisor, Taylor says she wants to develop a response system that identifies the health, safety and social needs of families so that children are less distracted by certain adult issues and freer to focus on their studies.

“I see firsthand how community issues such as affordable housing, proper nutrition, and decent health care overflows into schools,” she says. “How can a student focus on learning when they are worried about their next meal or whether or not they have a place to stay for the night?”

A Milwaukee native, Taylor attended South Division High School and has an associate’s degree in criminal justice and bachelor’s degree in human services. She is also a graduate of an eight-month leadership-training program sponsored by Emerge Wisconsin, a national organization active in 14 states that prepares women to run for political office.

Nationally, Taylor networks with ESPs at NEA ESP conferences such as the latest event she attended in March in Orlando, Fla.

“You get to know ESPs from all over and create relationships for a lifetime,” she says. “I like how NEA gears leadership training, education tips, seminars and workshops to the specific needs and responsibilities of ESPs.”

Taylor says ESPs nationwide are considered by many as the foundation of their schools since more than 70 percent live, shop, vote, and worship in the same district where they work.

“In Milwaukee, many of us, or our children, attended the same schools where we work,” she says. “Community residents are more likely to listen to someone they know … who they see at school and in the neighborhood.”

Meir is a “gifted and talented” school offering classes to approximately 750 students in grades 3-10.

“Our student body is very diverse in terms of racial and ethnic groups and family income levels,” Taylor says. “They come from all over — the affluent suburbs and struggling inner city.”

Some families call on Taylor for help locating affordable housing, social services or even an interpreter for business matters since English is not their first language.

“I have an open line where they can call me on my cell or e-mail me and I’ll respond,” she says. “When I leave school, it’s not like I’m off.”

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’ …