What went wrong at Clarke Street School? Everything

Alan Borsuk:

I was there when dozens of heavily armed men descended on Clarke Street School, bringing life inside the school and in the surrounding neighborhood to a halt.

This was good. They were members of the Secret Service and the Milwaukee Police Department. And they were there because the president of the United States had come in person to N. 27th St. and W. Center St. to sing the praises of the school.

George W. Bush watched as students demonstrated their reading ability in a classroom and then spoke to about 200 students and adults in the gym. He called Clarke Street “a center of excellence.” It was a school having the kind of success Bush argued could occur in similar schools across the nation.

That was May 2002. Now it’s May 2014 and no one comes to Clarke Street to sing its praises any more. On the playground — a place where I’ve stood and watched kids play — a 10-year-old Clarke Street student, Sierra Guyton, was shot and severely wounded in daylight last week, innocent victim of others’ fights and stupidity.

In the fall of 2001, I wrote a long piece for this newspaper about the recipe for the success of Clarke Street, which consistently outscored not only MPS but the state in reading and math. Clarke had no entrance standards, no specialty program, and not much parent involvement.