In his last days as superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools in 1995, Howard Fuller went to visit an elementary school on the northwest side. He pledged when he became head of the system in 1991 to visit every school in MPS and, after almost four years, this was the only one he hadn’t been to.
It was a nice visit. The staff was welcoming, the kids were cute, the school seemed to be running well.
But achievement wasn’t good and whatever it might take to change that, there was little reason to think it was going to happen at this school.
As we drove away, Fuller was pensive. He wondered out loud what happens that makes eager kids like these turn out so often to have sour conclusions to their education.
I told him my take on what he was thinking was this: Something different needed to happen, he didn’t know what it was, but he knew these kids needed it. So try different things, most anything, to see if they work. Put the desks on the ceiling, see if it improves things, as I put it.
Fuller laughed. Yes, he said. There have to be better ways. But what are they?