Suburban lawmakers’ remarks, perhaps unintentionally, highlight high-performing MPS schools and plans to expand them to serve more students
Friday, July 10, 2015
MPS is building walls – walls on additions at two high-performing Montessori schools to serve more students and provide more opportunities for families; Montessori enrollment up by about 400 over five years
MILWAUKEE – Perhaps unintentionally, a series of comments from suburban lawmakers are serving to highlight some of Milwaukee Public Schools’ highest-performing schools and plans in place to expand them to serve more students.
The remarks also highlight the need to discuss how the state can best support high-quality early-childhood education.
Sen. Alberta Darling claimed that MPS “builds walls” around successful schools like Fernwood Montessori School. In fact, MPS is building walls at Fernwood as part of a building addition to help the school serve more students.
Fernwood, which has been rated “Exceeds Expectations” or higher in every year of the state’s school report cards, has expanded enrollment from 544 in 2009-10 to 705 in 2014-15. The addition will ensure the building has the room to serve those students as they move through the school toward 8th grade and the new students filling their seats in younger grades.
MPS is also building an addition to serve additional students at high-performing Maryland Avenue Montessori School, rated “Exceeds Expectations.”
The Fernwood and Maryland additions are part of MPS’ Regional Development Plan, which strategically utilizes facilities to expand successful schools. That includes two charter school expansions approved in June – one which is expanding in a once-closed building – and a potential second campus for the Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School.
The additions come after a series of decisions to expand access to Montessori schools and increase opportunities for families across the city including:
• Repurposing a would-be vacant school building to create Howard Avenue Montessori School in 2012-13
• Moving MacDowell Montessori School to a larger facility in 2012-13, allowing it to serve more students in grades K3-12 and allowing Highland Community School, an MPS charter Montessori school, to serve more students at the former MacDowell site
Instead of “keeping kids out” of Montessori schools as a lawmaker’s news release suggested, MPS has actually increased enrollment at MPS Montessori schools across the city from about 2,700 students in 2009-10 to about 3,100 in 2014-15. The increase means MPS – with Montessori schools located on the north, northwest, east, south and west sides of the city – continues to be home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of public Montessori schools.
The lawmaker’s news release also misstated MPS Montessori enrollment policies: MPS Montessori schools accept new students at grades K3 and K4 and students in grades K5 and older with previous Montessori experience. That is similar to the practice of other Montessori schools – including the stated practice of a publicly-funded, non-MPS charter Montessori school in Milwaukee – because the learning method in Montessori schools is substantially different from that of traditional schools.
The remarks from lawmakers also may help spark discussion about how the state funds quality early-education programs. MPS provides 3-year-old kindergarten in its Montessori schools without the state aid that comes for students ages 5 and older. MPS and other districts only receive partial aid for 4-year-old kindergarten students, even if the students spend a full day in school.