Buildings rise, test scores fall
Spate of school expansions is no tonic for student proficiency

Alan Borsuk & Dave Umhoefer:

The $102 million spent on reviving the concept of the neighborhood school in Milwaukee hasn’t improved academic success at most of the schools where the money was used, a Journal Sentinel investigation found.
With a few exceptions, student achievement has shown little improvement – and in some cases it has fallen dramatically – at 22 schools that were among the largest beneficiaries of the district’s school construction program.
The district’s Neighborhood Schools Initiative was conceived as a way to get children off buses and into their local schools – which MPS officials hoped to improve with new classrooms, before-school and after-school services, and such things as state-of-the-art science labs and libraries.
But bricks and mortar have not raised student performance, testing data shows.
In 16 of the 22 schools, the percentage of fourth-graders rated as proficient or better in reading was lower last year than it was in 2002 – the year the school building initiative hit high gear. Nine schools saw their math scores drop.
Overall, combined fourth-grade reading and math scores have declined sharply at a half dozen of the22 schools where more than $1 million was spent on improvements. Only five schools have had major increases in their combined reading and math performance.