Graham Kilmer

Poll Gives Milwaukee Schools Poor Rating

41% said schools getting worse. Yet 71% gave a good rating to the schools their own children attended.

By - Feb 22nd, 2022 03:41 pm
School classroom. Pixabay License. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

School classroom. (Pixabay License).

An education focused non-profit polled residents of the city of Milwaukee on general satisfaction with schools, and the results show increasing levels of dissatisfaction with the K-12 education system in Milwaukee and significant concerns about learning loss during the pandemic.

More of the poll’s respondents think school quality was poor than thought it was good, and nearly half of all respondents thought schools were getting worse.

This is the second year that City Forward Collective has conducted a poll on educational sentiments in the city. Colleston Morgan, director of policy and advocacy, told Urban Milwaukee, the first goal of this annual poll is to “raise awareness and operate from a place of understanding on where our community is on some of these critical questions that we all need to face together.”

City Forward does not advocate for any specific type of school, Morgan said, whether it’s a traditional public school, a charter school or a private school. “In short, we’re pro high-quality schools for Milwaukee students.”

The poll covers respondents from across the city, with children attending private, charter and public schools. The poll oversampled some racial and ethnic groups – a common statistical method for isolating data of smaller groups – to get an accurate breakdown of perceptions along those lines.

The poll was conducted by Deringer Research Group. It included 700 respondents, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%.

Morgan said the data suggests that parents by and large are satisfied with the school their child attends, but are dissatisfied with the system at large.

Morgan likened this phenomenon to the old adage about Congress. “Everyone likes their Congress person, nobody likes Congress,” he said. “We very much have that same story going on in the city.”

The poll found that only 20% of respondents thought the current educational system in Milwaukee is working for students.

The majority of respondents, 71%, rated the quality of their children’s school as good or excellent. But 41% of all respondents think Milwaukee schools in general are getting worse, 28% think they’re staying the same and 19% think they’re getting better.

This perception that schools were getting worse increased from 2020 to 2021, going from 37% to 41%. But when respondents rated the quality of Milwaukee schools as poor, neutral, good or excellent, the percentage of respondents saying the schools were poor did not change.

In both 2020 and 2021 32% of respondents said they thought school quality was poor. Those that said schools were good or excellent went from 27% to 26%.

Despite the data points suggesting that more respondents thought the schools were not doing well and getting worse, Morgan “found it a little bit heartening,” he said, that most parents thought the school their child attended was good or excellent.

He said one way to look at this was that, “People recognize and don’t want to dump on educators or schools that are trying to do really difficult work.”

When school options are broken down by traditional Milwaukee Public Schools, charter schools and voucher schools, the latter saw the largest increase in favorability. This increase was largely driven by statistically significant increases in favorable perceptions among three demographic groups: Black parents,  college-educated parents and young parents defined as respondents under 35.

It has been nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Milwaukee. Educators, students and families have tried to make due with incredibly difficult circumstances, Morgan said. But one data point that rings out from the polling is that many parents feel their kids have fallen behind academically.

“The pandemic has not been good for kids,” Morgan said. “It has not been good for them academically, it has not been good for them more broadly.”

When asked about the impact of remote learning on academic performance, approximately 47% of parents said their child fell behind as a result of remote learning practices. Only 32% responded that they felt their child stayed on track academically. 

Morgan was careful to say the polling does not show a direct link between pandemic policy, academic performance and parents’ perception of schools because it didn’t ask those questions. He also noted that it’s possible the demographic trend observed regarding the school choice program is “maybe an acceleration of trends that we’ve seen for a number of years.”

Read the poll report here.

Categories: Education, Weekly

2 thoughts on “Poll Gives Milwaukee Schools Poor Rating”

  1. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Well what to do? An article in the Chicago Tribune today written by a union member complained that the union and its members were expected to solve CPS problems. As I read it I thought well you will be blamed so why not tackle the issue. The same goes for Milwaukee and even this very “Newspaper” Urban Milwaukee and try as I have there is NO INTEREST is dealing with the issues that even 29% of the folks who were surveyed said about their kids school.

    It was noted recently that MPS is suspending kids at the same rate that they did 10 years ago.

    ALL the kids that are being suspended have been traumatized and need therapy as that is the TREATMENT for trauma. Just as a cast is treatment for most broken bones therapy is a proven TREATMENT for trauma.



    Thomas Spellman

  2. Thomas Williams says:

    As someone who was involved in alternative education efforts, I wish we’d get over polling and get to the heart of the matter – funding! We fund schools based on what in poker is called the “come”. I pay based on what I could sell my house for, not on how much I earn! Renters pay based on their land lords future property wealth! Isn’t it time to move to system that recognizes that wealth derives from education! I Remember my parents drilled into me that good jobs come to those who get education! MPS and other school systems are starved because we continue this outmoded system of funding! Peace TW

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