Ted Bobrow

The achievement gap is a disgrace

By - Mar 31st, 2010 04:00 am
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There’s something terribly, terribly wrong with this picture.

When the news arrived last week that Milwaukee’s black fourth graders have the lowest test scores in the country, it barely seemed to trigger a reaction. But when concerns about safety led to the closure of a bridge that added 5 or 10 minutes to people’s commutes, the floodgates opened and shouts of shock and outrage filled the airwaves.

Oh my God, people. What’s wrong with us?

Granted, nobody should be surprised by the bad test scores since they are part of a trend that goes back for decades. But if there’s one thing we need to be teaching our children, it’s that as adults we are held accountable for our actions. So I want to know why on earth does Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent William Andrekopoulos still have a job?

This guy is so out of his league that they ought to have his picture next to the definition of the Peter Principle. For some reason, this former MPS middle school principal was appointed superintendent in 2002 to lead the state’s largest school district without any district-wide administrative experience.

Laughably, the debate on school reform always seems to focus on abstract principles like budgets and school choice and governance and federal guidelines. But when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett argues that the mayor should be in charge of appointing the superintendent, isn’t he really saying that the MPS board failed when it chose Andrekopoulos and left him in place for eight years?

Now I know that education reform is a very complicated and challenging issue. I said as much three years ago when MPS, the Greater Milwaukee Committee and the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association announced an unprecedented initiative to work together to address the city’s dysfunctional schools. Back then, I was struck by the lack of vision and specifics in the so-called new approach. All that was unveiled was an agreement to collaborate.

Hardly earth-shattering, but at the time I held my fire and hoped for the best. Sister Joel Read, former Alverno College president and nationally respected expert in education was in charge and I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Sadly, Sister Joel was sidelined by a stroke and the initiative which was launched with such great fanfare received little support from Andrekopoulos, and it died on the vine.

Fortunately, Andrekopoulos’s days are numbered. He announced his retirement last year and the MPS board has appointed a new superintendent who takes over on July 1.

I may sound like Charlie Brown, once again falling for Lucy’s offer to kick the football but, there are signs that Gregory Thornton may be the right man for the job and the new president of MPS. Michael Bonds may also be worth giving a chance.

But please don’t just roll your eyes and ignore the news that Milwaukee is failing a majority of its children.

Do I really have to tell you that this is more important than the length of your commute?

Categories: Gray Matter

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