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June 14, 2007

Learning from Milwaukee: MPS Leads the Way on High School Innovation

Marc Eisen:

The much-reviled Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) could be a surprising role model for the Madison school district as it begins formulating a plan to refashion its high schools for the demands of the 21st century.

MPS, which educates a student body that is overwhelming minority and deeply ensnared in the tentacles of poverty, has a horrid record of academic performance.

But MPS’s very desperation has prompted the state’s largest school district to begin experimenting with small specialty high schools that range from 100 to 400 students. This is an intriguing venture.

The schools’ individualized programs, which promise a shared focus and personalized relationships with staff and families, are startlingly diverse.

How about a high school that uses Montessori instructional methods for an international baccalaureate program? Or one that mixes social justice projects with bilingual instruction? Or how about a four-year heaping of Great Books and Advanced Placement courses? Or a school that stresses visual and performing arts? Or one that couples Maasai-inspired African education with community-service projects? Or another that stresses teaching Chinese and Spanish in the context of international business?

Marc raises many excellent points. Absent changes in the generally monolithic (some might say Frederick Taylor, assembly line) approach taken locally, Milwaukee will certainly have a far richer K-12 environment over the next 20 years than Madison.

Much more on the proposed high school redesign here.

A paradox to the proposed high school redesign scheme is it's failure to address the preparation issues (pre-k, elementary and middle school).

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 14, 2007 12:57 PM
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