Lisowski: Call it whatever you like, MPS is still failing its students
OLA LISOWSKI October 17, 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world.
In a letter to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver, State Superintendent Tony Evers has provided an update on the beleaguered Opportunity Schools Partnership Program. DPI’s official report cards come out in November, but Evers’ letter provides a teaser in writing that “based on the preliminary data … there are no districts eligible for the OSPP in 2016-’17.”
In other words, expect MPS to lose its “failing to meet expectations” label in the coming report cards, which more heavily weigh progress than outcomes.
Evers writes that in order to participate in OSPP, schools must be placed in the lowest performance category — failing to meet expectations — for two consecutive report cards, or the school building must be vacant or underutilized. Participating schools also must be located in a district categorized as failing to meet expectations.
I’m happy that the state is more diligently measuring progress. When students do better year over year, it’s cause for celebration. But before we all declare MPS a success and the problem solved, let’s wait for the report cards to to be published in November. Consider the latest data available, which paints a different picture, showing that many MPS schools are still serving their students at dismal levels.
According to the University of Wisconsin Remedial Course Report, 175 schools sent more than six graduates to the UW System who needed remedial education in the fall of 2015. Of those schools, 160 graduated classes in which more than 10% of students required remedial math education. In 76 schools, more than 25% of students required math remediation. In 12 schools, 50% or more of the graduating class that went to the UW System needed remedial education.
Bradley Tech, for example, sent 12 students to the UW System in fall 2015. Eight students required math remediation before starting regular courses. This is a school that attracts millions of dollars in philanthropy and is held up by MPS as “the premier technology and trade high school in Milwaukee.” And yet its graduates must take zero-level math courses to catch up with their peers.
Think about what that means for those students who have been told for years that they’re lucky to attend elite institutions within MPS. For the 58% of MPS students who graduate high school in four years, large numbers go on to the UW System where they must take remedial coursework for zero credits and full tuition. For the more than 30,000 students trapped in schools for no other reason than their ZIP code, it’s tragic. The status quo still reigns at MPS, and children are left in schools that fail them — official state label or not.
By declaring MPS to no longer be failing, it appears that DPI simply has moved the goal posts rather than addressing the real issues within the largest school district in the state. The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world. Never mind what the bureaucrats tell you — that’s the definition of failing to meet expectations.
Ola Lisowski is a research associate at the MacIver Institute, a Madison-based right-wing free market think tank.