UWM, MATC and MPS leaders share M3 collaboration’s impact

January 31, 2019

MPS Superintendent Keith Posley (left), MATC President Vicki Martin (center) and UWM Chancellor Mark Mone shared the impact of M3 in its first two years.

Two years ago, leaders from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee Area Technical College publicly announced a groundbreaking educational effort called M3 (pronounced M-cubed). It’s an unprecedented collaboration among Milwaukee’s three largest public education institutions to create a better K-through-16 educational system, one that will feed the region’s growing need for college-educated employees.

In January, M3 leaders hosted an event highlighting the impact the initiative has had so far. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, MPS Superintendent Keith Posley and MATC President Vicki Martin shared how M³ has helped increase the MPS graduation rate and the percentage of MPS grads going on to college. They also committed to accelerating the progress and to moving the needle in one area that has not yet seen growth: the one-year retention percentage for MPS graduates who attend either MATC or UWM.

More than 130,000 students are collectively served by MPS, MATC and UWM. Through M³, educators work in teams to smooth transitions between the institutions and implement programs that benefit the entire student population. Curricula and instructional approaches in math, science and reading are being aligned throughout the three institutions. Research and resources are being shared, with an eye toward accelerating student progress from middle school to high school and on into college.

Additional M³ efforts include combined professional development sessions for MPS, MATC and UWM faculty members. Trips to UWM and MATC campuses connect MPS students with educational avenues aligned with their career interests. Job fairs have introduced students to employers, and Parent Institute programs ensure parents have the tools to navigate their children’s path to college.

At the impact update, held at MATC’s Downtown Milwaukee Campus, M³ leaders shared the early results with legislators, businesspeople, families, faculty and staff.

“Education is power,” Posley said. “This is transformational work.”

Success is being tracked through key metrics. That includes the MPS four-year graduation rate, which rose from 58.2 percent for the class of 2015 to 62.2 percent for the class of 2017. Final 2018 numbers are expected to rise another few percentage points.

M³ has also helped increase the percentage of MPS graduates entering college within one year from 44.2 percent for the class of 2015 to 46.2 percent for the class of 2017. The initiative helped boost the percentage of MPS students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from 60.8 percent in 2016 to 74.6 percent by 2018.

Higher targets for all figures have been established for 2019-20, and leaders outlined specific steps to help more MPS students succeed when they enter college. Sixty-five percent of MPS students continue after one year at UWM and 44 percent continue after one year at MATC.

“We will not rest,” Martin said, “until our students are successful at the level they deserve and our community needs.”

Two UWM students spoke about the impact M³ has already made on their lives. First-year student Mawah Kromah, who plans to major in education, talked about the support she received at her MPS high school — James Madison Academic Campus — and the summer bridge program that helped her graduate from high school and enter college.

Pilar Olvera, a senior in sociology and urban studies at UWM, said that campus organizations such as the Roberto Hernandez Center, which is dedicated to serving Latino and Latina students, contributed to her academic success and set her on a path to graduation. “UWM helped me every step of the way,” Olvera said.

Mone said that working in public education is a calling, and he emphasized “how important it is to transform lives and create opportunities for individuals.”

M³ is playing an important role in those efforts. “I’m proud of the work we’ve achieved,” Mone said, “but we have much more work in front of us.”