Passing Notes: Welcome to the New School Year!

Sep 1, 2017

Every few weeks, WUWM education reporter Rachel Morello will open up her notebook to give us the scoop about what's happening in schools around the greater Milwaukee area. Test your knowledge of headlines big & small with her education news quiz! Here's what she brought us at the beginning of the new school year...

Hard to believe it's already September 1, and school is back in session for many (if not most) kids around the Milwaukee area!

Perhaps unlike some kids in the area, I wait for this day all summer long -- because as the new school year kicks into gear, there are plenty of classrooms to visit and stories to tell.

For instance, over the past few weeks we've seen MPS open its "Year of the Arts," waited in the wings for a federal decision on DACA, and learned more about how local schools hope to help get tech giant Foxconn up & running, once the company makes its way to Wisconsin. 

...and there's more! But rather than just run through the headlines, let's turn it into a little quiz. See how much you know about the week in education.

Wisconsin (Finally) Moves On a K-12 Budget

READ: Legislature Gets the Ball Rolling on a Final K-12 Budget

This is pretty late in the year for the legislature to still be talking about budgets. Usually, they try to approve a budget by early summer. 

But you might have heard of a little thing called Foxconn. The state’s deal with that tech giant took up a lot of legislators’ time the past few weeks. So they’re just wrapping up their regular business now – as schools are already starting the new year.

And lawmakers have a few other school-related ends yet to tie up.

One proposal still on the table would require the state Department of Public Instruction to create a curriculum for “firearm education” – essentially gun safety classes – for high school students. These classes would be optional -- districts wouldn’t be required to offer them (although some already do, particularly districts in areas with active hunting and sport shooting populations. Most of those districts coordinate with outside organizations to write the curriculum for their safety courses).

Name That Network

You might remember that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee kicked off its efforts on this project last school year. The network is basically a centralized system that helps take some of the administrative burden off of individual Catholic school principals, so they can spend more time improving leadership and academic achievement.

Seton already had a handful of schools on its roster -- and this year, they’ve added four more to that list.

One of those schools is Catholic East. Principal Jennifer Jones says she’s excited to see what being part of the network can do for her school. They’ve found some pretty significant achievement gaps among their students in the past – so they’ve already started working to re-wire their reading and math curriculum, with help from Seton staff: 

"The biggest thing is that it’s a network, and that we’re all here to work together. Teachers have an opportunity to work with other teachers from different schools. It’s not this big, scary system that’s happening. I think there’s a lot of positive movement, and it’s centered around our catholic values as well as a broader picture of having success for all students in the City of Milwaukee."

Who Said That?

Name this local politician, who recently completed a national fellowship designed to help elected policymakers develop a better understanding of education policy: 

Hint: This person says (and has said, in the past) that he wants to learn more about how in his current role he could work to expand and deliver wraparound services for area students and their families -- things like health care and housing services, even job training.

If you guessed Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, you would be right!

The county executive just completed nine months of work under the Hunt Kean Leadership Education Policy Fellowship. He was nominated to be part of the group, which was made up of elected politicians from several different states. They attended sessions with various national speakers, visited school sites around the country – learning how they can work in their different leadership roles to improve educational outcomes for students in their areas.

Here’s a little more of what Abele said about the experience – specifically, the other state leaders he met: 

"There’s quite a range of experience in education policy among the fellows when they come in. I made a lot of good friends. And as important as anything, I’ve got a lot of counterparts with whom I feel very comfortable bouncing ideas off of, and giving open and honest feedback, and that’s always a privilege."

Nicely done!

What else is coming up? In the coming days, expect to hear a federal decision about DACA and perhaps a couple of stories about the first few weeks of school. 

And, as always, share your questions with me! You can now submit the burning questions you have about teaching & learning in southeastern Wisconsin -- anything you'd be interested in hearing WUWM explore along the lines of education. Submit your question below.

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