READ IT: Supt. Gregory Thornton's blog

A call to parents and the community, by Superintendent Gregory Thornton
Posted Nov 12, 2012

I‘ve visited more than 50 schools since the first day of school on September 4th.  I’m impressed with what I’ve seen; teachers are instructing students with greater rigor thanks to our comprehensive literacy, mathematics and science plans aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Our efforts are showing signs of paying off.  New Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction school report cards found MPS schools are growing student achievement at a rate better than or roughly the same as the rest of the state.  Our students lag in overall achievement, but we’re headed in the right direction.

We are working hard to help students succeed academically.  We need the assistance of parents and the community in demanding students have the kind of behavior that allows them, and others, to succeed.  I will not tolerate the poor behavior of some students interfering with the vast majority of students who come to school every day ready to learn.  The district is working hard to help students develop better behavior skills, and will hold them, and their parents, accountable when they break the rules.

A few years ago, Milwaukee Public Schools had more student suspensions than Los Angeles Unified School District, which has seven times more students.  We launched a new program, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), to help.  And it’s working.

During the 2007-08 school year, MPS had 87,059 suspensions. In the 2011-12 school year, the number of suspensions fell by 52 percent.  Reducing the number of suspensions not only improves school climate, it also keeps more students in school, improving their chances of success.

We have other programs designed to help students make sure their behavior isn’t a barrier to their academic success or the academic success of others:

    I wish we did not have to provide these services.  But wishing doesn’t address the reality that we face.  A small number of our children in this community – for a variety of reasons that often don’t have anything to do with school – don’t have the skills they need to stay out of trouble.  We are taking an aggressive, but comprehensive and compassionate approach to addressing student behavioral issues in school.

    We cannot do this by ourselves.  Parents, your children are in our schools for seven hours a day, but they are still your responsibility.  I appreciate those parents who demand acceptable behavior from their children and thank them.  But we need all parents to step up and make sure their children know poor behavior won’t be tolerated, period.

    We have great community partners, but we need more support for our students. Become a mentor or tutor.  Provide after-school or summer jobs or internships.  Let students understand that rewards and opportunities come when there is good behavior and academic success.

    The lives of the young people in our community are tied to the future success of Milwaukee.  It’s up to them to make good choices.  It’s our responsibility to guide them.