Blocks from the glitz of Fiserv Forum, a Milwaukee school flounders and a community shrugs

Alan Borsuk:

Let me suggest that at least a bit of our attention should focus on the Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning, known as WCLL (pronounced “wickle”).

There seems to be a surge of unsettling things happening on the Milwaukee education landscape, some of them just more of the same (low student achievement, divisive politics) and some of them not so typical (corruption).

Sweeping things under the carpet or collectively shrugging our shoulders are not good long-term strategies for dealing with these situations, but they seem to be popular practices.

Start with WCLL, an MPS kindergarten through 12th-grade school with about 625 students. The school originally was located on the far south side. It moved a few years ago to the Sarah Scott building at 1017 N. 12th St. That building has housed a list of schools that didn’t do well. WCLL is following suit.

According to data from the state Department of Public Instruction, 1.5% of WCLL’s third through eighth graders were proficient in reading and math last year, 75.4% were rated “below basic” in reading and 82.8% “below basic” in math. Daily attendance averaged 77% and the four-year graduation rate was 38.2%.

Lately, WCLL has been in the news because of a series of fights involving lots of kids that were caught on phone video. Some parents have called the school out of control. The response from MPS leaders has been muted and unspecific. To an outside eye, there’s no sign of doing something to change what’s going on.