On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Evers, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, State Rep. Mandela Barnes and Ald. Ashanti Hamilton joined members of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and MPS Acting Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver (right) at the annual first day of school bell ringing ceremony. Others in attendance included Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Bob Peterson, Milwaukee Police Capt. Victor Beecher and staff representing U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Milwaukee Public Schools “rang in” the traditional school year Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at one of the district’s 14 Commitment Schools, schools identified to be transformed into high-performing schools through rigorous academic interventions, additional district-level supports and flexibility to use innovative approaches to improvement.
The 2014 bell ringing took place at MPS’ Thurston Woods Campus, located in the north side’s Thurston Woods neighborhood.
“While we have seen some signs of growth including more students meeting reading standards, a rising senior scholarship total now topping $31 million, and four MPS high schools ranked among the state’s 15 best, we must accelerate efforts to improve achievement,” Dr. Driver said. “That’s why our Commitment Schools effort is critical and it’s why we are starting the school year at Thurston Woods.”
MPS identified the 14 Commitment Schools through a selection process that included members of the community, MTEA and administration. The schools were selected from among the 48 MPS schools that received the lowest grade on the most recent state report card. All 48 schools will receive additional instructional support, professional development and operational assistance in the upcoming school year.
Other key efforts aimed at accelerating student achievement for 2014-15 include:
– School support teachers in every school to help improve instruction by working directly with educators in their classrooms
– 50 new art, music and physical education specialist teaching positions in MPS schools, part of a total of 142 new such positions added over three years
– Continued implementation of the district’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan and Comprehensive Math and Science Plan, which are tied to the Common Core State Standards to set a clear, high bar for what students must master in each grade to stay on track for college and career success
MPS is also committed to building positive relationships between youth and adults and cultivating leadership at all levels. Those efforts for 2014-15 include:
• Parent coordinators in every school to build stronger relationships between families and schools
• Committing to continue to improve outcomes for men of color through participation in President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative
• A focus on growing mentoring opportunities
• Continued development of a Customer Service Bureau to better serve families
• Growing new schools in response to growing demand, including the new high school at MPS’ high-performing Golda Meir School for the Gifted and Talented, located in a once-closed middle school building; a new charter high school with limited seats still available, NOVA Tech; and additional grades at schools including Howard Avenue Montessori School, Carmen Middle/High School of Science and Technology-Northwest Campus, Hamlin Garland School, Hayes Bilingual School, Milwaukee College Prep – 38th Street Campus, Milwaukee Environmental Sciences, Universal Academy for the College Board and Walt Whitman School.
• Development of a leadership pipeline
• Continued implementation of a strong educator evaluation system designed to identify and grow excellent teaching practices
The beginning of the school year comes as MPS prepares to welcome leaders from 60 of the nation’s large city school districts as the district hosts the Council of the Great City Schools 58th Annual Fall Conference in October.