Milwaukee ‘turnaround schools’ plan likely to be scaled back

Alan Borsuk:

While the proposal didn’t specify a targeted zone, there were more than 40 Milwaukee public schools in the state’s lowest performance category (“fails to meet expectations”) in the most recent round of school report cards.

Kooyenga said in an interview last week that he and Darling wanted to get feedback before they created a formal proposal. And they’ve gotten plenty.

That includes adamant opposition from the Milwaukee School Board and the Milwaukee teachers union. For example, the board brought to Milwaukee three people last week who are critics of what has happened in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And the union has been making opposition to charter schools outside of MPS one of its urgent focal points.

But the feedback also includes advice from some who are more favorably inclined, including some charter leaders in Milwaukee. Their message: Go slow, mostly because there isn’t much alternative. The higher quality existing charter operators in town are not interested in growing rapidly and know the difficulties of doing that. And better national charter organizations are not eager to enter the Milwaukee scene, given the frustrations and difficulties such operations have encountered already.

“Doing it wholesale, taking every school that doesn’t meet expectations, and (saying) let’s flip those schools around next year, is a scaling problem,” as Kooyenga put it.

But a small number of schools — that’s different. Kooyenga said the goal is for legislative action before summer and to launch the “turnaround” schools in 2016. Kooyenga said he and Darling are working on what to propose when it comes to specifics, such as how schools would be picked and who would have oversight.