Partnership Improves Conditions At Milwaukee Public Schools’ Carver Academy

Test Scores, Attendance Are Up While Discipline Problems Are Down

Karen Apricot (CC-BY-NC)

Officials with Milwaukee Public Schools are releasing the results on Tuesday of a unique school turnaround effort.

The program partners Teach for America, City Year and Schools that Can Milwaukee with the city’s struggling Carver Academy. Each of the organizations works in other Milwaukee schools, but there isn’t a school where all three organizations work have formally worked together to create a set of common goals and strategies.

The approach they’ve adopted is called “Collective Impact” and is gaining steam in the nonprofit world thanks to efforts like federal Promise Neighborhoods. The idea is that instead of working on their own goals in a community, service groups focus on how they can all support common goals.

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At Carver, the organizations are working with school staff toward shared goals to improve four areas: student learning and instruction, school climate and culture, family engagement and leadership effictiveness.

District officials credit the efforts for at drop in Carver’s suspension rate from 41.2 percent during the 2013- 2014 school year to 32 percent the next year, a 4 percent rise in attendance for the current school year and meeting targets for raising student’s math and reading test scores.

Superintendent Darienne Driver said the goal is to apply that structure to the specific needs of other schools.

“But there are just really a number of different strategies now that we can take from the work that was done here to really scale collective impact across our district to be able to improve student achievement one building at a time,” Driver said.

In its first year, the district reported the most gains in improving the school’s climate and culture through changes like a weekly assembly. morning classroom meetings with students and a consistent classroom structure that supports students.

Principal Janel Hawkins said creating a more joyful, supportive atmosphere is paying off in tangible ways.

“Our attendance right now is up 4 percent. We’re very purposeful about making sure our attendance is shared in the morning. More kids are actually coming to school,” Hawkins said.

District officials couldn’t provide the exact costs of the effort. A representative of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, which is supporting the Carver effort, said costs would vary from school to school based on what supports were needed in each community.

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