Why we need to even out the school systems
The educational gap with students nowadays is only broadening. That is to say that the quality of education among districts in a region varies immensely depending on the district. Wisconsin is a prime example of how more needs to be done, not only to allow for better opportunities for students to attend different, better districts but also to improve the schools in the “bad” districts. According to data gathered in a study by AOL’s Daily finance 3 of the top 25 worst performing schools in America (including 2 of the top 5) are in Milwaukee (Daily Finance). This is hard to believe considering last The Daily Beast ranks 55 Wisconsin schools among the top 500 in the nation in terms of highest average ACT scores, Average AP/IB/AICE scores and amount of students in these types of courses. This includes the high school I attended, in a suburb of Milwaukee called Brookfield, as the highest ranked school in Wisconsin at 230 (Daily Beast).
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Questions begin to arise as to what can be done to help improve the problem at hand. I propose a solution that will not be simple but perhaps, with time, it can be successful in instituting the change necessary to bring Milwaukee Schools out of the horrid state they’re currently in. By first imposing more programs for students to be able to receive the education they deserve we begin to solve the problem. This would only be a temporary solution as the real answer would be one that addresses improving the Milwaukee school systems. Open enrollment and systems like it allow for students to be able to overcome the hurdles put up for them in the lives they currently live poor Milwaukee neighborhoods.
Currently in Milwaukee and other cities in the area there exists programs such as open enrollment policies, voucher programs and magnet schools in an attempt to help improve education in a statewide manner. Open enrollment is the option for parents to enroll their children in schools outside of their district. Voucher programs give low-income families grants for their children to be able to attend private schools. Magnet are those that specialize in certain classes so as to prepare those who attend the school for a certain line of work that they aspire to be in. All these are beneficial to those students who would otherwise not be able to get a good education because of where they live. Under privileged children from these areas could often be stellar students, but due to lack of opportunity, motivation and resources, they succumb to their surroundings.
A study conducted by the What Works Clearing house in August of 2012 found that Milwaukee area students who were given vouchers for private schools significantly outperformed their counterparts who never left the public school from where they lived (What Works Clearing House 4). The reading levels on the WKCE of students in grades 7, 8 and 10 showed that the students were far ahead of those students of the same age in the Milwaukee Public school system (What Works Clearing House 1). Another study in Texas showed that grade 9 and 10 students showed better test scores and math as well as higher school attendance than the students of the same age that never left their neighborhoods (Maloney 12). So far (for the most part) only good things have come from program.
The problem for these approaches comes in terms of implementation and funding. Funding for transportation is a very large draw back when considering these changes. Since there is no specific law, (state or otherwise) the burden of ferrying this children around falls upon the schools or the parents (Davis 16). A higher cost is a big deterrent for any schools wanting to open enrollment. It is also not helpful for parents because one of the reasons they are not able to send their children to better schools in better neighborhoods is because of monetary constraints they face.
Also, although improvements are usually seen when older students switch schools, younger students seem to struggle readjusting to their new surroundings. It is theorized that the higher expectations of these new schools often hinder the children from succeeding when first introduced because of the low standards that they were previously held to (Maloney 12). Open enrollment and systems like it need to be available for students beginning at a young age with better financial support provided for the families involved. Laws need to be put in place both at a state level and nationally to provide money where it is most needed.
Of course just like with many subjects in education open enrollment has its critics. Mainly groups who wish to keep the less privileged out of where they live. For example, a group of Ohio taxpayers has band together to combat open enrollment. The Reynoldsburg Taxpayers Against Open-enrollment is a group of Ohioans trying to cease the backing of these types of programs because they prioritize their wants, needs and desires over those of their less fortunate fellow man. According to their Facebook page, “[they] believe that open enrollment would be a detriment to [their] schools, [their] community, and [their] home values” (Reynoldsburg Taxpayers Against Open-enrollment).
That is to say they do not see the effects of these kids coming in as negative in terms of effecting others education but rather they believe that these outsiders coming into where they live would have undesirable effects on their way of life. Open-enrollment would mean higher taxes for these people to pay as they are the ones who actually reside in the neighborhoods where these schools are. Their views are something they are completely entitled to although I may not agree with where they are coming from. I personally believe that they fail to see the bigger picture. The education is not for immediate advantage but instead an investment in the future. If more people are educated today it will lead to a better tomorrow.
Open-enrollment and such programs are like trying to stop rupturing dam with duct tape. Eventually this dam will rupture and the problems will only get bigger and more overwhelming. The real solution is in trying to improve the schools where the low income students come. If they were able to get the kind of education they need to succeed in life near to their homes, there would be no need to leave. In Milwaukee a great part of the problem is due to the immense amount of segregation there is in such a small area. Milwaukee is only the 30th most populous city in the nation, yet it has the highest segregation around the country. All this segregation leads to a distribution of wealth that highly unequal.
The high school I attended was in one of the wealthier cities in Wisconsin. Due to having a good amount of money to spend, the district was able to get better teachers, facilities, and create a better learning environment. All this lead to Brookfield East High School having 65.6% of all their students scoring proficient or advanced in all areas on the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WISE Dash public portal). Although perhaps not seemingly all that impressive seen alone, when compared to the just 12.6% of Milwaukee Public School System High school students, the numbers seem staggering (WISE dash public portal).
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Currently Elmbrook School district (Brookfield East’s district) is doing its part to help by having open enrollment (although space is limited) but true solving of the problem won’t happen unless something is done about the troubled schools.
As things stand now, not enough is being done to improve education. The laws that are currently in place only perpetuate vicious circle of lack of education in poorer regions. The No Child Left Behind Act for example gives more funding to schools that score better on statewide standardized tests. Since schools such as those in Milwaukee have been scoring poorly for so long, funding has been taken away from them leading to less opportunities and resources for improvement of any sort. No money equates to no way to pay for better teachers or amenities and in turn education suffers further.
“Reynoldsburg Taxpayers Against Open-enrollment.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.
Davis, Jennifer, and Officers Council of Chief State School. “School Choice In The States: A Policy Landscape.” Council Of Chief State School Officers (2013): ERIC. Web. 7 Nov. 2013
The Daily Beast. “2013 America’s Best High Schools.” Newsweek. The Daily Beast, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2013
Daily Finance. “25 Worst Performing Public Schools in the U.S.” DailyFinance.com. AOL Money and FInance, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013
Maloney, Catherine, et al. “Evaluation Of New Texas Charter Schools: Final Report (2007-10). Executive Summary.” Texas Center For Educational Research (2011): ERIC. Web. 7 Nov. 2013
What Works Clearinghouse, (ED). “WWC Review Of The Report “Milwaukee Parental Choice Program Longitudinal Educational Growth Study Fifth Year Report.” What Works Clearinghouse (2012): ERIC. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
“WISEdash Public Portal – Wisconsin Dept of Public Instruction.” WISEdash. Wisconsin Information System for Education, 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.
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