Last Tuesday, I had the great opportunity to talk about the importance of early childhood education, and Milwaukee Succeeds, to members of the Wisconsin State Assembly’s Task Force on Urban Education. Milwaukee Succeeds Goal 1 leader Tim Coughlin, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County President & CEO Mary Lou Young and I joined MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver.
The committee, chaired by state Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Franklin), has been taking testimony in cities around the state.
The public hearing was hosted by the MacDowell Montessori School (Photo credit: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). There was great interest in our early success of the Wisconsin Reading Corps, and Representative Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) sent a follow up note, remarking “Danae Davis gave a great overview of Milwaukee Succeeds last week at Macdowell Elementary School.” Nice feedback on our advocacy work!
Here is a copy of my remarks:
Thank you Representative Jessie Rodriquez, Chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Urban Education and other esteemed members of the Speaker’s Task Force. I am honored and pleased to be an invited guest speaker on this very important topic of quality of early childhood education, quality urban education in Milwaukee with a particular focus on what our babies and children are experiencing in the City of Milwaukee.
My particular focus will be to introduce to many, the phenomenally exciting collective impact work we are doing to improve educational outcomes for all children, cradle to career, through our work as a Milwaukee Succeeds collective.
Our Milwaukee Succeeds mission unites our community around a commitment to support strategies that will achieve our shared vision of success for every child, in every school, cradle to career. Almost from the beginning of formation of our Milwaukee Succeeds initiative, as spearheaded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and with partners such as Milwaukee Public Schools, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Bader Philanthropies, the MMAC, the City of Milwaukee, Charter and Choice school advocates and the list goes on, we have focused on the areas that will yield the greatest improvement impact short and long term, namely our work to ensure our babies are ready for kindergarten and are proficient in reading by the 3rd grade.
I’d like to take just a moment to describe our successful strategies in the area of 3rd grade reading proficiency, which as we all know is directly related as an extension of the focus on quality early childhood educational experiences for children. We are excited to see inspiring progress with the implementation of our Transformative Reading Instruction initiative. Our innovative TRI model says that when a school has aligned and data-driven progress monitoring, evidence based tutoring, active engaged parents, robust experiential learning opportunities and combined with the most influential piece, coaching of teachers on foundational reading and social emotional skills, reading proficiency is exponentially improved, especially at the 3rd grade level. We are currently implementing the TRI model in 7 schools, including MPS schools and are planning to grow to 50 schools in the next few years, with a goal of improving 3rd grade reading proficiency for Milwaukee children.
And speaking of evidence-based tutoring, we recently implemented an exciting and breakthrough program that is changing academic outcomes for thousands of students in 12 states and the District of Columbia. It’s called Wisconsin Reading Corps. The model combines national service through AmeriCorps members rigorously trained in 1:1 tutoring and daily assessment, with literacy science to reach more high-need children through 1:1 daily tutoring. This model was created in Minnesota, and after 10 years of application, Minnesota Reading Corps has improved reading proficiency for over 30,000 children in 900 schools. Among other results MRC experienced a 3x reduction in special education referrals and $12 return on every dollar invested! We are currently implementing WRC in 8 Milwaukee schools, half of them in MPS with generous support from Funders including the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Herb Kohl Philanthropies and Bader Philanthropies. While these funders generously contributed to year 1 of implementation, we are earnestly seeking support for the next two years to achieve similar results in Milwaukee, and ultimately the State of Wisconsin.
Our MKE-S model relies on the discipline of using accessible data to drive decisions about which strategies will deliver the greatest impact, and to lead to a continuous improvement process for ensuring that we deliver on our promises. Early on we realized that if we improve the quality of child care, improve the skills of child care providers and their teachers, increase immunization rates and advocate for policies that actually work in children’s favor for successful lives, we can truly improve the success trajectory for many of Milwaukee’s children.
We’ve been humbled by the fact that 4 years into the burn, we have no less than 300 people and organizations at our tables, working together around common goals, determined to build better pathways for children and young people in Milwaukee. And more recently, we’ve begun conversations with other urban communities in Wisconsin, who have implemented similar StriveTogether collective impact models to address similar challenges and disparities in terms of children preparedness to be successful in school and life. Racine and Brown County are in varying stages of implementing their models and are seeing promising results and Kenosha is very close to launching their own community-wide education initiative. From a statewide perspective, how wonderful will it be when we unite around common purposes and learn from each other’s experiences. That day is coming soon.
Believe you me, I am just as frustrated and scared for the future of our children when I see such negative persistency in infant mortality rates, increased poverty rates for children and families in our region, limited to no access to healthy food in some of our most impoverished areas, and the very low percentage of 3 or better YoungStar rated child care facilities for our children.
However, the fact that our community is uniting around commitment to doing what it takes to improve the future for our children is truly inspiring. We have government, civic, business, community young and older deciding to work together for the betterment of children. I’ve been around long enough to say, we all should be inspired by the possibilities.
At Milwaukee Succeeds, we are renewed in our commitment in part because of the transparent communications and healthy relations we’ve experienced with our partners, both philanthropic, business, educators and community leaders. We will be forever vigilant about the impact we know we can achieve. We also are eager to work with the State to leverage policy that can work better and to devote resources that are clearly necessary if we are to be successful for every child, cradle to career.
It was a great afternoon with Dr. Driver, Tim and Mary Lou. We got lots of questions and compliments on our work. Let me know what is on your mind.
Here is a link to the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
See you soon,
Danae Davis | Executive Director
101 W. Pleasant St., Suite 210, Milwaukee, WI 53212