"Closing gaps:" Milwaukee Public Schools no longer required to take part in OSPP

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Public Schools is no longer required to participate in the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP). That is according to a letter released on Wednesday, October 12th by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The letter informed MPS it will not have to take part in the program because the district is no longer in the bottom category in the state school report card. Only school districts in the lowest category of the state report card for two consecutive years are required to participate in this turnaround program.

Mark Sain

"Obviously the OSPP law is what it is and we're happy we're not participating in it at this time," said Mark Sain, MPS Board President.

Educators have fought the OSPP legislation for months over concerns about funding, staff involvement and curriculum.

Overseen by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, the goal of OSPP was to take a failing school and put it under the direction of an outside commissioner who would then take steps to help it recover.

Dr. Darienne Driver

Milwaukee Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver said this announcement shows that teachers and community partners' hard work is headed in the right direction.

"We've done a lot of work closing gaps. Making sure we're closing the performance and the distance between our students of color and our Caucasian students," Driver said. "Our work is not completed until we are in the top category of the state report card and then some."

MPS officials said they have committed to rethinking high schools by expanding college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes as well as career and technical education offerings.

Last year, the Wisconsin Legislature made changes to the school report card to improve transparency and authenticity. That included weighting school performance to account for student poverty rates, student disabilities and the length of time a school has had to influence a student's academic progress.

President Kim Schroeder released the following statement:

“The OSPP legislation was one of the greatest threats to public education Milwaukee has ever seen. The MTEA applauds the work of all educators, parents, and community members who have worked tirelessly to fight this legislation both through grassroots organizing and direct action.

“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of MPS educators, parents, and community members, our students are performing against all odds to overcome the effects of failed education policies.

“We know what works in Milwaukee because we are seeing the results of positive, educator-driven initiatives like the Community School model. We see what happens in public schools where parents, communities, students, and educators are empowered to take ownership of their schools to ensure the success of every child. The OSPP legislation, which threatened to take away local control from the Milwaukee community, is another example of a failed policy created without the expertise of educators who work in our schools.

“Every child in Milwaukee has the right to a publicly funded, equitable, and democratically controlled public school. The MTEA is deeply committed to ensuring every child, regardless of their zip code has access to the schools they deserve.

“MTEA members welcome this news and will continue to fight for the public schools every child deserves."

State Sen. Alberta Darling offered this statement:

"I want to congratulate Superintendent Driver for her leadership in moving MPS out of the "failing school district" category. This is great news for all of Milwaukee. It is also a validation that positive results are stemming from the tools we provided and the reforms we passed for MPS. There is still much work to be done. There are still too many kids falling through the cracks, but we are making positive progress. Now we need to build on this success.

"My ultimate goal is a high-performing system of schools in Milwaukee where no drastic interventions are necessary. Improving the district-wide rating is a great start. Now we need to drive this improvement until every individual school is high performing and each child in Milwaukee is able to choose the school that best meets their needs and aspirations.

"I applaud Dr. Driver's efforts and success in moving MPS out of the "failing school district" category. I look forward to continuing to work with MPS as we make strides to reach our goal of evolving the district into one that "significantly exceeds expectations."