As schools grow more diverse, educators strive for stability

Alan Borsuk:

“For us, stability is key.”

Mark Flaten, principal of Green Bay West High School, said that to 10 members of the state Assembly when they visited last week at the school as part of the work of a legislative task force on urban education.

Flaten was talking about challenges faced at the school, where about a quarter of the students come or go during a school year or between school years, not counting incoming ninth-graders and graduating seniors.

Flaten could have been speaking for many educators across Wisconsin and beyond who every day face the challenges of trying to create educational stability in the lives of students whose circumstances aren’t so stable, sometimes in big ways.

In short, stability is a big plus when it comes to educational success, but change, both good and bad, is part of our times and the lives of large numbers of children. One central challenge for schools is to provide as much of the former as possible, given the high degree of the latter.

The notion that kids enroll in a school and stay there until they move up to the next level of schooling is not what it used to be. That’s the case across the board, but it is particularly true at schools serving a higher percentage of low-income students and students who are new to the United States.

If you think this is “a Milwaukee problem,” you’re right and wrong. It certainly is a big issue in Milwaukee, where thousands of students have unstable personal circumstances.