Education writer lauds successes of Community School concept at Auer Avenue School

AuerAvenueSchool_300pxIn a column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, education reporter Alan J. Borsuk this weekend highlights the impressive progress being made at Milwaukee’s Auer Avenue School, a high-poverty inner city public school that has successfully implemented the Community School concept.

“Is there a long way to go? Yes,” Borsuk writes. “Is it going to take sustained and well-executed work to make big progress? Yes. But, in a morning at the school one day last week, what I believe I saw growing there was the kind of school culture — energized, focused, positive, committed — that, even in demanding circumstances, can move a school and its students forward in big ways.”

Auer Avenue is one of four Community Schools as a part of the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership. It is a Milwaukee Public School, not a charter or voucher school. And it has not been “taken over” under a new state law that gives the Milwaukee County executive power to take schools away from MPS and turn them over to outside operators (although it has been mentioned as a possible target of that law).

Borsuk writes about how the Community School concept works:

A pillar of the concept is that kids in high-poverty neighborhoods have a lot of needs outside of school that are unmet or inadequately met. Basic health care. Dental care. Eye tests and glasses. Clothes and food and help to stabilize home life. Make the school a center for improving these, the concept goes, and you improve success in school.

A second pillar calls for warm connections between a school and its surrounding community.

There’s a lot of work being done on both of those things at Auer Avenue. A partial list: There’s a Children Hospital nurse stationed at the school. United Way is paying the salary of an employee who works on community partnerships. The COA youth center adjacent to the school is a close ally. There’s a new parent council. There’s a new school leadership team that meets regularly and includes community members, students, and parents, as well as people from service agencies and, of course, school leaders. The school has introduced some “restorative justice” practices aimed at improving the way people in the building treat each other.

And, most importantly, he points out, these efforts have resulted in improvements in achievement, enrollment and attendance at Auer.

“Show me a school serving high-poverty students that is doing at least comparatively well and I’ll show you a place where the intangible element of ‘school culture’ is impressive,” Borsuk concludes. “I hope and I think I saw such a culture forming at Auer Avenue.

“Go get ’em, everybody. The kids and the city will be in your debt.”

Read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:

Auer Avenue School shows signs of improving culture

There’s a surge of new programs at Auer Avenue Community School, and there are some positive results. People within the school, in the Milwaukee Public Schools administration, in the immediate neighborhood, and in the broader community are joining together to support the school and improve the lives and academic success of the children who go there.

Read more about Auer Avenue Elementary School:

Hundreds gather to protect MPS schools from takeover – MTEA

Several hundred public school supporters – parents, students, educators and community leaders – locked arms in front of MPS’s Auer Avenue School this afternoon in opposition to a school takeover plan proposed by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). Participants shouted “Our schools! Our solutions!”