Involvement in music or drama or similar activities, either during the school day or after school, is a big plus in the high school careers of many students. The Reagan choir is a good example of how such groups can be creative, fun and demanding. Participation expands students’ talents, increases self-esteem and requires rigorous commitment and close teamwork. It gets many students more connected to school as a whole.
But while the picture for such enrichment is good at Reagan and some other Milwaukee high schools, the picture overall for MPS is not good. And the arts scene at high schools strongly parallels the academic scene at those schools.
In short, the highest performing schools academically are also the ones with the most arts programs. And there are six high schools in MPS, all with low academic records, that have almost nothing to offer in performing arts.
My interest in this was piqued by an email I got last fall during the Shorewood High School controversy over whether to perform “To Kill a Mockingbird.” An MPS teacher wrote, “When I hear of this and all the ‘inequalities’ concerning MPS vs. suburban districts, the one thing that comes to my mind is, ‘what schools in MPS even have plays anymore?’ ”