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January 24, 2010

A Diverse Milwaukee IB High School with Rigor.... Problem or Opportunity?

Alan Borsuk:

Picture a Milwaukee Public Schools high school that college-bound students are clamoring to attend. The school has grown from 100 to 1,000 in six years. Its program is rigorous, its test scores are strong. Hundreds are on a waiting list for admission for next year.

You might think MPS leaders would look at the meteoric rise of Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory School on the far south side and say, "Terrific! This is an opportunity. What can we do to satisfy the obviously huge appetite for what this program has to offer?"

Or, if you were perhaps a bit more cynical, you might think MPS leaders would look at the Reagan situation and say: "OK, who screwed up? Who allowed this school to grow so fast? Can we get a lot of these parents to switch their kids to other high schools where - for some reason - there is no waiting list?"

Reagan arguably has provided the biggest shot in the arm that MPS has gotten in the last decade or so. It provides a rigorous International Baccalaureate program for all its students - "We have one vision, one mission, one focus - IB," says Julia D'Amato, the principal and chief driver behind Reagan's success. Reagan is working with other MPS schools to develop a kindergarten through high school IB continuum in MPS.

But in recent months, Reagan has had to fend off an attempt to cap its enrollment and it has been ordered to reduce sharply the number of students next fall who do not fall into the special education category. Reagan leaders clearly feel frustrated by how much work is going into protecting their success from MPS leaders.

"All the buzzwords that are supposed to make a successful school, that's what we have here," says Mary Ellen McCormick-Mervis, one of the school's administrators. "If we're doing everything right, why not help us?"

Parent meeting set

Posted by Jim Zellmer at January 24, 2010 1:26 PM
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