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The Education Innovator #29
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 August 2, 2004 • Number 29
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Feature
Public School Choice in Milwaukee
What's New
Secretary Paige praises school principals at the annual conference of NAESP and NASSP; U.S. Department of Education hosts the first National No Child Left Behind Research-to-Practice Summit; OII releases supplemental educational services brochure in Spanish; the Corporation for Educational Radio and Television and PBS announce a documentary about Amistad Academy; 11th graders at Thurgood Marshall Academy represent DC at the national "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" competition; GEO Foundation releases No Reporter Left Behind; the Journal of Research in Rural Education makes back issues available online; and the Education Policy Fellowship Program of IEL is accepting applications through August.
Innovations in the News
Teachers at Alcester-Hudson Elementary School say that being named "in need of improvement" under NCLB brings resources to help focus on school goals, plus information on Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate, charter schools, magnet schools, and supplemental educational services.

Milwaukee Public Schools Offers an Array of Choices to Meet Customer Needs
There's an old maxim in the restaurant business: put your restaurant where other restaurants operate successfully. That area is a destination place where people want to go. All restaurants benefit from the spill-off from waiting lines, and the quality is often consistent because of the competition to be as good as, or better than, the next. This maxim has been transferred to the business of education in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Public School (MPS) District is the home of one of the nation's most flexible K-12 education markets, affording the system's nearly 100,000 students multiple options to increase their potential for success. Last school year, 6,410 students and their families chose to take advantage of the district's open enrollment program, while more than 13,000 low-income students attended private schools through Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program. In addition, over 12,000 Milwaukee students attended 30 charter schools.

Perhaps the most well known of all is Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program. Since 1990, the city has allowed students with a specified income to use scholarships to attend private schools. For example, in the 2004-05 school year, in order to be eligible, the maximum yearly income for a family of four is $32,940. In 2003-04, Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program students enrolled in 107 private schools—both sectarian and nonsectarian. The number of students in the program has now reached more than 13 percent of the total school population.

With so many options for parents, district officials view parents and students as potential customers and approach challenges in creative ways to stimulate perpetual improvement.

For example, in the case of schools designated "in need of improvement" under the newly enacted federal No Child Left Behind Act, Milwaukee follows a three-stage plan for communicating news about the school. First, the administration sends a series of letters home to explain what the designation means. Then it explains how the school plans to ameliorate the problem. Third, it shows how the designation affects parents' options for school choice.

The school system has also faced the challenge of declining enrollment in some schools. To combat this trend and to make the schools more attractive to potential customers, the district introduced the Neighborhood Schools Initiative (NSI), which now focuses on upgrading physical plants, adding specialty programs for both before and after school, and increasing lower-income neighborhood safety—the qualities of a school program parents wanted. With these high standards and services, enrollment in the schools participating in the initiative has increased by 4,576 pupils over the past decade.

Along with these improvements—choice and enhanced services—academic achievement for MPS has improved. In comparing Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) scores from 1997 with the 2001 results, 8th grade proficiency rose by 13 percent in reading and 30 percent in language arts.

Milwaukee Public Schools found that to revive an underperforming school system variety and competition had to be introduced to meet customer needs. As a result, MPS has become more like a business with different product lines to meet different demands.

OII has provided funding for Milwaukee's choice initiatives through the Charter Schools Program. Milwaukee Public Schools is the subject of a case study in the OII book, Innovations in Education: Creating Strong District School Choice Programs.

Resources: Note: While the program is innovative, it does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. While test scores of students in Milwaukee's public schools have improved, the gains have been steady, but small.

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What's New
Secretary Paige Praises Principals as "Public Face of Public Education"
At the annual conference of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Secretary Paige praised the nation's school principals and recognized their roles as teachers, counselors, fund raisers, and diplomats. (July 23)


Department's First No Child Left Behind Research-to-Practice Summit
The U.S. Department of Education hosted the first National No Child Left Behind Research-to-Practice Summit. Secretary Paige, along with ED employees, welcomed more than 150 teachers who teamed up with researchers and teachers who have successfully used research in the classroom to improve student achievement. (July 20)


Supplemental Educational Services Brochure Is Available in Spanish
OII has released a brochure download files PDF (133KB) on supplemental educational services in Spanish. The brochure is available for free from EDPubs, order #EU0120H. (July 27)


Documentary: "Closing the Achievement Gap"
The Corporation for Educational Radio and Television (CERT), in partnership with PBS, announced its latest documentary: "Closing the Achievement Gap." The documentary is the story of Amistad Academy, a successful charter middle school in Connecticut where most children enter the fifth grade more than two years below grade level, and 84 percent of students qualify for federal free and reduced-price lunch programs. (July 25)


Thurgood Marshall Academy Wins "We the People" Competition in DC
The 11th grade American Studies class at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a Washington, D.C. charter school, placed first in a district-wide competition called "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution," and went on to represent the district at the national level. (July 16)


0 No Reporter Left Behind Published by GEO Foundation
The Greater Educational Opportunities Foundation, an OII grantee in Indianapolis, released its latest publication, No Reporter Left Behind. The document is designed to provide journalists with easy access to information about No Child Left Behind, as well as information on education issues in Indiana. (July 21)


Journal of Research in Rural Education
The Journal of Research in Rural Education has made its articles from back issues available online and free to the pubic. (July 2004)


IEL's Education Policy Fellowship Program Articles Available Online
The Education Policy Fellowship Program of the Institute for Educational Leadership is accepting applications through August from professionals representing key educational organizations in the District of Columbia area. The program aims to increase the capacity of public school systems to aid the nation's at-risk children. (July 21)


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Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate
During the 2003/04 school year, Guilford County School District (NC) students took a total of 6,880 Advanced Placement exams, which is up from the 5,881in 2002-2003. District officials attribute the increase to making AP participation one of the district's main academic goals for the school year. [More-News-Record] (July 26)

After 20 months of planning, Cedar Ridge High School in North Carolina will begin offering the International Baccalaureate program to juniors and seniors this fall. Over 30 percent of the junior class has already signed up for the program. [More-Herald-Sun] (July 24)

Charter Schools
With a federal grant from OII of $3.3 million, the Georgia Department of Education hopes to expand its offering of charter schools for state residents. Currently, only 36 of Georgia's 2000 schools are chartered. [More-Macon Telegraph] (July 19 )

More than 4,000 Buffalo, NY students now attend publicly funded charter schools, and many of them spend large portions of the traditional summer vacation in class as a way to prevent "summer learning loss." [More-Buffalo News] (July 29)

Magnet Schools
A federal judge in Louisville, KY approved recruitment methods that ensure racial integration in the district's popular magnet schools. He determined that the school system's broad racial guidelines, designed to expose disadvantaged students to enrichment programs, did not constitute a quota. [More-Lexington Herald-Leader] (June 30)

No Child Left Behind
At Alcester-Hudson Elementary School in Sioux Falls, SD, teachers say that being identified as a school in need of improvement, and subsequently having to implement corrective programs, was a positive experience for students and faculty alike. Consistent with the NCLB requirement that "needs improvement" schools receive technical assistance in identifying and remedying their areas of deficiency, the school used monthly visits from consultants and expertise from education researchers, to help the Alcester-Hudson's staff focus on common school goals. [More-Rapid City Journal] (July 27)

Supplemental Educational Services
Chicago has set aside about $37 million in federal money for tutoring an estimated 97,000 students. The tutoring is expected to start in October and run for two to four hours per week for 20 weeks. [More-Chicago Tribune] (July 29)

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