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.

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.”

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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.

MPS supporters rally against takeover plan, in support of Community Schools

Supporters of Milwaukee Public Schools rallied outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse Monday to fight the takeover of some MPS schools under a new state law.

“It’s wrong and it’s not going to help education and it’s not going to help education in the city,” Schools and Communities United Co-Chair Ingrid Walker-Henry told WDJT TV, Channel 58. “What would help education is if they actually worked on funding or they gave children what they need like libraries, art, music and gym teachers.”

Walker-Henry said protesters want the state law to be repealed.

“I don’t agree with takeover in any shape or form because it’s taking a voice from the community and I think we can fairly say the community is targeted,” she said.

Schools and Communities United, which organized the rally, said that for over 25 years, Milwaukee has been ground zero for school privatization experiments that have failed our children and siphoned over a billion taxpayer dollars into unaccountable operators. At the rally, they said, “Milwaukee stood up to reject the MPS Takeover plan and demand local control of our public schools.”

The rally took place just a few days after the Milwaukee School Board and administration on Friday rejected a controversial proposal that would have resulted in the takeover of some schools, saying the state-mandated plan was vague, the funding plan unclear and elements conflicted with state law. As an alternative, Superintendent Darienne Driver and MPS School Board President Mark Sain proposed creation of a charter school offering an early childhood program.

Photos from the Schools and Communities United Facebook page:

NoTakeoverRally

Coverage from WISN TV:

MPS supporters rally to fight ‘takeover’ of schools

Milwaukee Public Schools supporters are rallying Monday afternoon in front of the Milwaukee County Courthouse to fight what they are calling a takeover of MPS. The 2 p.m. rally, organized by the group Schools and Communities United, is calling on Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to back out of the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program.

Coverage from WDJT TV:

Milwaukee County Executive Plans to Meet With School District In Midst of Protest

Students, parents and teachers marched around the Milwaukee County Courthouse Monday (June 20) to send a message that they don’t want anyone outside of the school district to manage their underperforming schools. They chanted “Who’s community, our community” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

 

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’ …