I was doing a search on the Journal Sentinel archives this week and I was reminded again just how big a deal the Neighborhood Schools Initiative was when it was adopted. Article after article discussed how Milwaukee Public Schools would be permanently altered as new schools opened in children’s neighborhoods. A separate office had opened to do outreach, plan, survey preferences, analyze parent decision-making processes, analyze patterns of family migration, and make sure the initiative would be successful. When I left the school board in 2001 the plans were prepared and ready to go.
When I returned 6 years later the Neighborhood Schools Initiative had essentially vanished. The data collected had been filed away and largely forgotten. Some buildings had been built, but the underlying goal of making sure schools would attract neighborhood children had largely been lost.
This seems to be a recurring pattern at MPS. Major initiatives are started with great fanfare but then just sort of wither and disappear. Another disappearing act was a principals’ academy to make sure new principals were selected and had the training they needed for success.
Reading Alan Borsuk’s thoughtful essay this morning listing ten things to watch in education in the coming year, I was struck by the absence of the MPS reading initiative. Could the reading initiative be sinking into the same black hole that consumed previous initiatives? Only a year or two ago, the reading program dominated both MPS activities and reports on MPS.