‘Building a strong foundation:’ MPS, city team up to improve early childhood education

MILWAUKEE --  Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) announced Thursday morning, Nov. 1, a new initiative and call to action to improve early childhood education. As second-graders worked on spelling in their Gwen T. Jackson School classroom, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Keith Posley was "spelling out" a new reading plan in the school's library.

MPS and the City of Milwaukee are joining together with the MKE Early Childhood Initiative, which focuses on the first five years of a child's life.

Keith Posley

"Evidence have shown that high-quality early childhood programs that help children learn and grow in their earliest years can change the trajectory of their lives," said Posley.

The idea is to create consistent, high-quality learning environments for all students, with the goal to improve literacy and social emotional development.

Focus of the initiative:

  1. Ensuring every Milwaukee family has access to high-quality child care
  2. Improving MPS early literacy scores
  3. Increasing state reimbursement rates for day care centers
  4. Leveraging resources to ensure a high-quality learning experience from daycare to school

In a call to action Thursday, City of Milwaukee leaders and MPS officials asked for community support.

"This is not something that you say. Collaboration is something that you do," said Ashanti Hamilton, Milwaukee Common Council president.

The city has hired someone to spearhead this effort. Still, some parents said they're waiting to see results.

Leah Noid-Harrington

"Because we're in the 53206 ZIP code, feel like they've heard this before. We see the plan of action -- there's no implementing," said Leah Noid-Harrington, parent of a Gwen T. Jackson School first-grader.

"We want to make sure that regardless of your ZIP code, regardless of your community, you have access to the most basic -- and that's quality, early childhood education," said Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee.

Superintendent Posley also issued the following statement on this initiative:

"As a community, we must answer the question of how we are positively influencing each those first five years in every child in the city. A child does not create the conditions and opportunities that he or she is born into -- as a community, we do and we can change those conditions. Building a strong foundation sets the stage for ambitious instruction."

MPS officials said the next step is getting committed partners to the table to discuss strategies and raise funds for the initiative.

The City of Milwaukee and MPS are seeking partners to join in this effort. Interested parties should contact the MPS Office of Academics at 414-777-7806 or Ptosha Davis at the City of Milwaukee at 414-286-3272.