Now is the time — despite the pandemic — to address the taxpayer supported Madison School District’s racial disparities

Amber Walker and Negassi Tesfamichael:

“We were glad to see you attempt to rebuild trust with parents on your very first day on the job. MMSD cannot afford to lose any more trust from its parents, students or teachers.”

For the past decade, Wisconsin schools have consistently placed first or second in the nation for the broadest achievement gaps between Black and white students. MMSD’s Black students perform below the state average. For years, both state and national standardized test scores indicate that, despite sitting in the same classrooms, Black students do not perform as well as their white peers in reading and math, across grade levels.

Black students persistently face higher suspension and expulsion rates. Some Black students and parents have expressed frustration over the years that there seem to be different standards for them versus their white peers.

The more time students spend out of school, the more likely they are to fall even further behind, increasing their likelihood of court involvement and falling victim to the school-to-prison pipeline.

Virtual learning during COVID-19 further complicates your charge to tackle all of these issues. Know that you have allies during this stressful time. Organizations like Simpson Street Free Press have managed to successfully transition to an engaging online learning model.

For over 20 years, SSFP has worked with Madison students in some of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods who attend schools in vulnerable feeder patterns. Despite the odds, according to SSFP’s most recent annual report, over 80% of students increased reading comprehension based on MAP test results. Over 90% improved their overall GPA after two semesters in the program.