Among Wisconsin’s African American students, average reading scores are lower than those of African American kids in any other state.
In response, a unique community movement has emerged in Milwaukee that is on a path to dramatically increase the number of high quality schools in our poorest neighborhoods.
A city full of energy and pride, Milwaukee finds itself at a very exciting moment, poised for change. In order to assure a bright future for our city and its children, Milwaukee faces an urgent opportunity and an incredible challenge. Race- and class-based achievement gaps are fundamental realities in any American urban center, and Milwaukee is no exception. Despite anchoring a largely middle-class state, Milwaukee is currently the fourth poorest city in the country. It is also Wisconsin's only community with a majority of African American, Latino, and Hmong American residents.
While Milwaukee is a city built on decades of hard work and a desire for true equity, its long history of experiments in education reform has largely failed its students. Over 127,000 students attend schools in three separate systems—public, charter, and choice—yet despite this proliferation of alternatives, none has proven to be a magic bullet leading to consistently high levels of achievement. The disturbing reality is that only 46% of the Milwaukee kids who enter the public school system will graduate from high school, and of those who do, less than 20% are truly prepared for college.
When Teach For America joined the movement in Milwaukee in 2009, it joined a community determined to change the status quo. Organizations like Pearls For Teen Girls, Schools That Can Milwaukee, PAVE, Public Allies, Common Ground, Boys & Girls Club, and many other advocates in this city work toward a community-wide vision for Milwaukee. They continue to prove that collective efforts will provide our students with the education they deserve.
Teach For America's role in this city is simple—it is to provide excellent leaders to our community, in our schools, in classrooms and beyond. Milwaukee students and parents are calling for committed individuals to help shape a better future for the community, and we are humbled and committed to help answer that call with our partners.
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Maurice is also a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools (including many school sites where our corps members now work) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And yes, he does root for the Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Bucks. As a 2008 Atlanta corps member, Maurice led many of his high school juniors and seniors to be the first in their family to attend college. In 2010, he was selected as the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award winner in secondary humanities, Teach For America's preeminent national award for classroom excellence. Following his years in the classroom, he led a cohort of teachers in Atlanta as a manager of teacher leadership development for that region. Throughout, Maurice has inspired others through his absolute bar for what students can accomplish, his love for others and their stories, and, in particular, for his commitment to justice in his home town.