No magic wand

August 14, 2014

magic-wand-iconThe public school situation in Milwaukee is challenging at best. For the better part of two decades inner city schools have been failing. Superintendents have come and gone but the cycle of failure continues. Charter schools have been used and the only thing to change was the pay rates of school leaders. Milwaukee has to accept the fact that there is no magic wand that can change failing schools.
Milwaukee Public Schools has acknowledged 14 public schools that are in need of severe help. Seven of these schools are high schools whose names have a familiar ring: Vincent, Bradley Tech etc. MPS has allotted extra money to these schools over the next few years to attempt to change the learning environment. But is money the magic wand needed to increase student performance?
Money in itself has never changed education issues unless it was a teacher strike. Money in the form of job security for instructors may keep instructors in place at a school. But what if the instructors are part of the problem? What if the instructors at these schools are tired of being where they are? Is more money going to make that algebra teacher want to teach an unruly third period? The money will help the instructor buy more martinis on Friday but that doesn’t help the students on Monday.
There has been talk of making many of the failing schools community based. In theory this plan is sound. One positive of community-based schools is that it keeps everyone in the environment they live in. This means that if students live in a rough area they would learn in the same area. Quite literally it means let them destroy or save themselves. This plan would force the people in these communities to affect some kind of change to salvage their children’s future. There would be no escape from the degrading mentality unless the community as a whole changed.
Of all the plans MPS has attempted the community based schooling may be one of the best. It forces people in failing areas to look at what they are doing to change their environment. It also keeps the students in environments they are familiar with and can relate to. If the neighborhood is violent and parents don’t like it then they have to do something to change the atmosphere.
The community-based schools also can help people understand why education is important. Everyone wants to be rich but no one understands what it takes to be poor. Students will be forced to accept responsibility of their actions in school. Many students will begin to see that their only ticket to a decent life is to focus on school. Parents will have to behave differently if they want a safe area for their children to learn and grow in.
Of course community-based schools are only as good as the students who walk through the door. There is one positive from community based schools if inner city mentalities don’t change. The grim truth will be: at least the ghetto mindset is quarantined to the area it resides in. After all there is no magic wand to cure failing schools.
Frank James IV © 2014
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. Being Frank is a bi-weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.