Opinion
Education Opinion

Cross Pollinating Education Ideas in Milwaukee

By Tom Vander Ark — May 15, 2014 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By: Abby Andrietsch and Isral DeBruin

No single school sector can adequately address the education crisis in our country’s large cities. We need meaningful collaboration and resource-sharing
among all types of schools, leaders, and teachers who have in common an intense desire to improve and a fiery belief that all children are capable of
achieving at a high-level. Leaders need to set aside divisive political concerns over market share and instead embrace a wholehearted focus on educational
quality.

We want meaningful system-wide change, but our kids just can’t wait for top-down, systemic reform. Well-meaning policy efforts are too often mired in
political gamesmanship and reduced to little more than incremental improvements. Meanwhile, students continue to suffer the effects of failing schools.
Their lives can’t be put on hold while adults sort things out. Instead, we must work person-by-person and school-by-school, ensuring exceptional quality
across all sectors - traditional district, public charter, and private voucher.

At Schools That Can Milwaukee, we’ve assembled an unprecedented and growing cross-sector network of more than 185 talented leaders from 33 schools all over
the city. Each month, we host a set of professional development meetings, called Collaboratives, that bring together Principals, Network Leaders,
Instructional Leaders, Teacher Leaders, and Deans of Students.

During sessions, participants learn from local experts, see peer-driven presentations, and participate in observation and feedback sessions. The real
power, though, is in the relationships that get built. Leaders from every type of school in the Milwaukee ecosystem are able to talk through common goals,
struggles, and solutions while sharing practical resources and strategies that improve their day-to-day practice. They do so in a room filled with people
who share their beliefs about student ability and their desire to be part of something bigger in Milwaukee.

Our Collaborative attendees see each other at least once per month, visit each other’s schools, and hear updates on shared goals and struggles. Between
sessions, our leaders call, email, text, and tweet to follow up on ideas, request resources, and work through problems together.

Each month, a different STCM school hosts these Collaboratives, offering participants the opportunity to tour the host school and observe classrooms. This
ensures every leader in our network visits at least one school every month, giving them an opportunity to encounter new ideas and best practices to bring
to their schools.

The mixture of Collaborative attendees makes for a cross-pollination of education ideas that isn’t happening anywhere else in Milwaukee education - or,
arguably, nationally. As a result, district school leaders are implementing strategies borrowed from their charter and voucher counterparts. Voucher
leaders are visiting charter and district schools to observe best practices in action. Charter leaders are using resources developed collaboratively with
public and voucher schools. Together, we’re improving student outcomes as we shift the community’s beliefs about what is possible for urban kids.

This cross-sector collaboration has proven incredibly powerful - more so than we had even hoped. By basing this movement on relationships and a culture of
freely sharing resources, we believe our progress will be more resilient and sustainable long-term. Our leaders are constructing a dense web of personal
connections and experiences that provide support and assistance, and will maintain the momentum of this movement even in the face of political headwinds.
These leaders are transforming Milwaukee.

The
Smart Cities
blog series catalogs innovations in learning in America’s great cities. We’re writing a book about what we’re learning--
and you can help.


Since 2010, Schools That Can Milwaukee has partnered with and supported high-quality and high-potential schools across all three sectors to close the
Milwaukee achievement gap and ensure all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed. With a vision of 20,000 students in high-performing
schools by 2020, STCM is intensely pursuing three strategies: grow Milwaukee’s best schools, strategically support high potential schools’ movement to
excellence and recruit proven national charter school providers and education leaders to Milwaukee to increase the number of high-performing schools.


Abby Andrietsch is STCM’s Co-Founder and Executive Director. Prior to launching the organization in 2010, she worked in finance, human resources,
philanthropy and education policy. Abby lives in the Milwaukee area with her husband, Omar, and daughter, Page.


Before becoming STCM’s Manager of Communications & Development in 2013, Isral DeBruin taught upper elementary students at a Milwaukee charter
school, where he started as a Teach For America corps member. Prior to teaching, Isral was an award-winning education reporter. He lives in Milwaukee
with his wife, Joanna.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP