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.

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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.

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’ …

Milwaukee election shines national spotlight on state school takeovers

In this story from EdVotes.org, Félix Pérez highlights how the Milwaukee community is coming together to support their public schools, including political action activities such as working to help elect State Senator Chris Larson as County Executive.

Milwaukee parents, residents, educators, students and community groups are organized, vocal and persistent when it comes to derailing the effort by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his friends in the state legislature to take over their community schools. Just last week they staged more than a hundred school walk-ins; they have testified at hearings; they have coordinated multiple rallies, written letters, placed phone calls and collected petition signatures.

So last week’s outcome in the primary election for Milwaukee County Executive came as welcome news. Chris Larson, despite being outspent 20-1 and trailing incumbent Chris Abele by 13 points three weeks before the primary, advanced to the April 5 general election against Abele. Larson, who bested Abele by 708 votes out of more than 95,000 votes cast, opposes the state school takeover law. Abele, a multimillionaire who contributed $1.75 million to his campaign compared with slightly less than $100,000 raised by Larson, supports the law.

“The schools aren’t failing our communities. The leaders are failing our schools,” said Larson at a school walk-in the morning after his primary election victory. The takeover law, said Larson, is “designed to hurt our schools. It is not designed to try and make them succeed.”

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Milwaukee election shines national spotlight on state school takeovers

Tags: Chris Larson, community schools, state school takeovers by Félix Pérez; image: candidate Chris Larson addresses school walk-in participants Milwaukee parents, residents, educators, students and community groups are organized, vocal and persistent when it comes to derailing the effort by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his friends in the state legislature to take over their community schools.

Educators, students, community members ‘walk in’ together to show support for public schools

Mitchell School in Racine held its first ever walk-in to demand the schools all students deserve.

Mitchell School in Racine held its first ever walk-in to demand the schools all students deserve.

Cooper School's walk-in for public schools.

Milwaukee Cooper School’s walk-in for public schools.

Educators, students, and community members came together Wednesday to show their support for public schools by walking into school together in a proud and public display of unity. ‘Walk-ins’ were held in dozens of Wisconsin schools, including schools in Green Bay, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Racine, Solon Springs, Onalaska, Sparta and Tomah. They were among dozens of cities throughout the country that participated.

Walk-Ins for Public Schools are a simple and powerful visual reminder of the extreme support that exists for public schools. The Walk-Ins aren’t new to Wisconsin. Last September, Wisconsin educators, parents, students and community supporters in Milwaukee and La Crosse proclaimed support for public schools by holding similar walk-ins at over a hundred schools. The event succeeded in showing the massive support that exists for public schools, stopping the Milwaukee county executive from a plan to turn a large number of public school buildings over to private schools. In the end, the executive publicly committed to supporting Milwaukee Public Schools and only one empty building was handed over to private interests.

We Are Wisconsin walked in with La Crosse Central High educators to support public schools.

We Are Wisconsin walked in with La Crosse Central High educators to support public schools.

For Milwaukee, February’s Walk-Ins for Public Schools continued the struggle to provide all students with the schools they deserve. Wisconsin has enacted public school takeover legislation and there is a new takeover commissioner who has yet to outline specific plans.

In other Wisconsin cities taking part, local public schools are reeling from massive cuts in state funding and an outflowing of millions from public school budget to instead subsidize private schools. The events are a call for public community schools that welcome and serve all children and offer excellent academics, art, music, physical education, libraries and support services including health care, before- and after-school care, tutoring and family involvement.

“Walk-Ins for Public Schools send a strong message that we love our public schools and we stand united against any attempt to turn our public schools over to private operators who don’t serve all children and are not accountable to parents, voters, or a locally elected school board,” said Kim Schroeder, a teacher and president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

“If we’re serious about improving schools, we need to invest in the public schools that provide opportunity for all children, no matter what their ZIP codes,” said Betsy Kippers, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Time and again, Americans have said they prefer improving public schools to spending scare tax dollars on voucher schools or lining the pockets of independent charter schools.”