Why is this a problem? Earlier this year, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board highlighted a concerning outflux of students from the Madison Metropolitan School District. Safety concerns might be partly to blame. But a glaring absence of consistent academic challenge in the typical school day no doubt contributes. Despite common knowledge of this lack of rigor, misconceptions over equity issues have limited progress in this area for decades. This has resulted in little action to address significant disparities at the highest levels of achievement.
In 2016, MMSD signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to resolve a two-year formal compliance review. This investigation focused on racial disparities in advanced coursework enrollment in MMSD high schools. The agreement requires the district to take steps to increase both access to and preparation for advanced coursework for black and Latino students. The OCR has said this must include boosting participation in any foundational courses that prepare students to be successful at an advanced level in high school.