Reimagining High Schools
Our success as a community is closely interwoven with the academic and career readiness of our students. As we find ourselves in the throes of the second decade of the 21st century, there are profoundly troubling signs that the U.S. is failing to meet its obligation to prepare millions of young adults for the workforce. In an era in which education has never been more important to economic success, the U.S. has fallen behind many other nations in educational attainment and achievement. After years of effort and billions of dollars spent, the time has come for an honest assessment and reinvention of high schools. The underlying assumption has been that an academic, classroom-based approach in high schools is capable of preparing nearly all adolescents and young adults for success in the 21st century.
On July 21-23, 2015, 62 caring, diverse Milwaukee leaders met at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago to reimagine what MPS high schools can and should be in order for all students to be successful and to create a vibrant Milwaukee community. These attendees included educators, MPS central office representatives, school leadership, community leaders in education, business community representatives, parents, students, and national thought leaders in the areas of education, marketing and systems thinking – a truly diverse cross-section of leaders, many of whom had never worked together before.
During the three days, the group formed a team and committed to positive, urgent and sustainable change. There were candid conversations about tough topics that revealed game-changing opportunities. Powerful stakeholders and influencers stepped out of their individual comfort zones and set aside agendas to collaborate and invest in a shared win for students. Each stakeholder contributed to the creation of a “positive core” that included important values such as pride, confidence, engagement, risk taking, leadership and transformation.
Ultimately, the SAS attendees collectively conceived a vision for the MPS high school of the future:
Our high schools provide every student with a magnitude of opportunity and pathways to success in the community and adulthood with
- high standards for learning
- an inclusive and celebrated multicultural student body
- an excellent faculty
- a vibrant environment
- a caring community
Our high schools build curiosity and inspire creativity. Students come first.
From the SAS came four key learnings:
- If we want different results, we must embrace a paradigm shift and require different inputs.
- We must spread this synergy in our community in order to sustain this moment as an important change agent.
- Business and philanthropic communities are on board and support MPS high school success.
- We already have much to celebrate with MPS high schools and should continue to do so.
This new initiative has a strong commitment from the 60+ collaborators from the MPS High School SAS. All participants are on board, helped define basic goals, formed working groups and implemented some major quick wins.
The newly-relaunched plan for Bradley Tech dovetails with our efforts on Reimagining High Schools and will serve as a lab to incubate and pilot our larger high school strategies. With a refreshed dashboard, clear targets and a dedicated commission, Bradley Tech is poised to implement strategies quickly.
The Commission, M3 leadership (MPS, MATC and UWM) and Bradley Tech’s administration and educators have focused on four key strategies to build energy around technology and trade education and improve outcomes at Bradley Tech. We are encouraged with the progress to date, which includes efforts to:
- Provide high-quality math, literacy and career technical programs, curriculum and applied experiences to graduate productive, lifelong learners who are college, career and job ready.
- Increase enrollment demand and retention through intentional and systematic recruitment and engagement strategies.
- Establish a model that will engage partners to ensure student success and build a strong community.
- Develop faculty and staff with the skills, knowledge, expertise and resources to facilitate the success of Bradley Tech students.