Barriers to reform in the Milwaukee Public Schools
By Susan Mitchell
The purpose of this study is to show why years of education reform efforts and new programs systematically have failed to improve results in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).
The author, Susan Mitchell, paints a picture of a publicly financed monopoly incapable of the kind of change that will lead to effective schools that produce students prepared to live and work in an increasingly competitive world.
The author’s evaluation of decades of MPS reforms and her assessment of the MPS bureaucracy demonstrate that MPS behave differently from successful organizations and effective schools by recycling failed strategies and setting and resetting the same goals year after year.
In the meantime, performance declines as cost increases. The graduation rate has fallen from 79% in 1971 to 44% last year while per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased 82% since 1973.
What this report clearly says is that these trends are almost guaranteed to continue until we address the fact that the system itself is the problem. It is time to make this issue central to the debate on school reform and to ask those who still believe that new programs and reforms will change MPS to show why that is the case.