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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I agree--remove them. But to where?

by folkbum

Because Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan never misses a chance to a) showboat and b) bash the Milwaukee Public Schools, an incident at Bradley Tech high school from last month has got the city's attention. Which is not to say that the incident wasn't serious--an outsider allegedly showed up, among a crowd gathering outside the school, with a shotgun. This is not something to be taken lightly, but the Milwaukee PD and Tech's administration did a great job of keeping students safe and resolving the matter.

Writing at Third Coast Digest, Patti Wenzel picks up it up from there, explaining one possible solution and lighting upon another:
The thought process is that now, students are transported on school buses to their campus but choose to skip classes. Instead of having the ability to get back on an MCTS bus and leave the area, the truants are forced to remain in the neighborhood (in this case Walker’s Point) and cause problems.

Are we as a community and taxpayers supposed to seriously consider returning to a more expensive transportation method for students, because it will allow truants to leave the area and take their mayhem and foolishness elsewhere?

Instead, we should implement Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton’s idea of removing troublemakers from the school.
“Everyone needs to be educated, but not everyone needs to be here,” Thornton said during the public meeting.
And I agree: At nearly every high school in MPS, there is a handful of students--some high schools have bigger handfuls than others--who are not suited for traditional education. This may be a symptom of a diagnosed disability, or it may be hard-headedness, gang activity, or addiction. Either way, I am sure that Tech would be a much better place for students and teachers if they could move one or three dozen of the worst of the worst out.

But where do these students go? They're not going to get dumped into some other specialty school, I assure you. Reagan and King, Arts, Riverside and Morse--all of these get special dispensation from the district already for their specialty programs. And while Wenzel says "MPS has schools set up for these students," the district really doesn't: There are small partnership schools that act as alternative settings, but they cannot accommodate every student in the district whose presence is a disruption. Schools like Lad Lake enroll, literally, less than a dozen kids at a time.

So what happens is, as always, the other high schools in the district get dumped on--Bay View, Madison, South Division, Vincent, Pulaski, Washington end up taking some other school's worst of the worst. And whaddyaknow, that looks an awful lot like the list of the state's worst-performing high schools from earlier this year. This is no coincidence.

So what to do? Clearly, MPS needs to invest in a significant alternative program for the district's most chronic disruptors. It needs multiple sites that can serve probably three or four hundred students. The sites cannot be located within other schools.

Is this a cheap and easy fix? No--and probably the most difficult part will be developing an enrollment protocol so these alternative sites don't simply become dumping grounds for thousands of immature students who can handle a regular program with adequate supervision and instruction. But these schools need to exist, because we can't keep letting Milwaukee's high schools get dragged down by students who simply can't handle a high-school environment.

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