Written by: Jamaal Smith
Los Angeles. Cincinnati. Austin. Baltimore. Kentucky.
What do all of these cities have in common?? They have adopted a model called the Community School strategy.
In the most challenging and impoverished neighborhoods within these cities and one state, the Community Schools model has been developed in order to bring more of a collaborative effort in not only providing children with equitable education, but to help provide the community with necessary resources to improve its current conditions. The Community School strategy is a proven model that has been facilitated mostly in communities of color and helped to bolster the amount of opportunities students of color will be able to receive through a holistic approach to education.
So why is this model not being implemented in the city of Milwaukee?? Actually, IT IS!! Milwaukee currently has four Community Schools in place: Bradley Tech and Madison High Schools, Hopkins-Lloyd School, and Auer Avenue School. Yet, because there has been such a bombardment on parents to support the Milwaukee Parental Choice program coupled with the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (aka the MPS Takeover) presented by State Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga, many people have never heard of the Community Schools initiative. GOP leaders want you to believe that the best way to rebuild our schools is by completely wiping away the largest school district in the state of Wisconsin and building a contingency of schools with full autonomy and no accountability, even though they are entitled to public dollars. Ask people in cities like New Orleans and Detroit how this plan has worked out for their respective school districts. Why should we accept this option for our children?? Why should parents and community stakeholders not have a say in school affairs? Why shouldn’t they have the ability to assess what the community needs and see that those resources are brought to the school??
In Cincinnati, not only was the graduation rate for the Community Schools district improved from 59% to 82%, but they were also able to lessen the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap from 14.5% to 4.5%. Now, given that Milwaukee is the most segregated city and has the widest Black-White achievement gap (66.1% for Blacks, 92.9% for Whites in 2013-2014) in the nation, why would we not implement a model that could help change that dynamic?
Community schools are charged with implementing six research-based strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning, community engagement and investment, and improved school environments:
- Engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging curriculum
- Emphasis on quality teaching, not high stakes testing
- Wrap-around supports and opportunities
- Positive discipline practices (e.g. Restorative Justice/Practices)
- Authentic community and parent engagement
- Inclusive school leadership
At some point, you have to ask yourself: if this has been proven across the nation as a model that brings more success whereas school district privatization has failed repeatedly, what is the motivation to implement the failing model?? It is imperative that we get behind building community schools for the sake of our children and communities. Lawmakers have no right to make irrational decisions to the detriment of our children’s future by establishing rote practices of failing models. Please stand up and support Community Schools and place control of our children’s future back into the hands of those who care about them the most.
Milwaukee educator and MTEA vice president Amy Mizialko explains the 6 research-based strategies used in the community school model in the video below.
Sign our petition demanding the Wisconsin State Legislature support community schools.