WUWM: Education Reporting

Education news is often mired in discussions about big issues — policies, budgets, political fights. WUWM’s Education Reporter Emily Files also wants to tell student’s stories and hear from parents, teachers and others helping kids succeed.

What are you curious about when it comes to education in the Milwaukee area? What do you think is missing from the education conversation in this region?

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Emily Files

One Milwaukee-area university is clearing the way for some of its students to help with Wisconsin’s massive COVID-19 vaccination effort. Concordia University in Mequon offered a special immunization class for its first and second-year pharmacy students earlier this month.

The students normally wouldn’t learn how to administer vaccines until spring of their second year in the program, but now they can be called upon to give COVID shots as soon as they’re needed.

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As WUWM Education Reporter Emily Files visited virtual classrooms this month, she found that online school requires teachers to be intentional about how they deliver instruction, but also about how they connect with students.

Ashley Duley, an eighth grade English teacher at West Milwaukee Intermediate School, says she’ll carry those lessons with her, when life and school get back to normal.

Emily Files / WUWM

There were a number of major news developments this year that intersected with just about every area of life — including education. The biggest education story of 2020 has been how COVID-19 changed schooling so dramatically.

On March 13, Gov. Tony Evers closed K-12 schools as coronavirus cases began to surface in Wisconsin. School leaders scrambled to provide meals and education options for students at home.

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This school year, many districts decided to utilize virtual education in an effort to protect staff and students from the coronavirus. Milwaukee Public Schools is one of them.

As part of a series about how teachers are adapting to this new education format, WUWM’s Emily Files visited an MPS virtual classroom.

Emily Files / WUWM

Many schools in Milwaukee have spent the entire first half of the school year online, as a precaution against the coronavirus. WUWM has been visiting virtual classrooms to see how teachers are adapting.

McKenzie King, a chemistry teacher at Carmen Southeast High School in Milwaukee, says some learning experiences are impossible to recreate virtually. Right now, she’s teaching her students about chemical compounds. It’s usually one of her favorite units.

Emily Files / WUWM

If you ever scroll through videos on the social media app TikTok, you’ll notice that kindergarten teachers have become popular. They’re posting videos of themselves teaching online — and the level of energy and patience it takes has garnered those videos millions of views. Amanda Hendrickson can relate. She’s a kindergarten teacher at Wilson Elementary in the West Allis-West Milwaukee district. Every day of teaching is like putting on show.

DADEROT / WIKIMEDIA

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments virtually Tuesday in a case that could determine whether local health officials can close schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emily Files / WUWM

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many teachers and students out of their classrooms, and onto their computers. But K-12 education wasn’t built to be virtual. So how have teachers adapted their in-person instruction for the computer screen? WUWM's Emily Files visited virtual classrooms to find out, and will tell those stories this month. In this first installment, we learn how a Milwaukee fourth grade English teacher breaks up a 90-minute class to keep kids engaged.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 3:51 p.m.

The predominately white Burlington Area School District, about 30 miles west of Racine, has been grappling with how to address — and teach children about — racism.

On Monday night, the school board adopted an anti-racism policy. But the people who were advocating for such a policy say it’s not enough.

Emily Files / WUWM

It’s become common in Wisconsin for school districts to go directly to voters to ask for increased property tax funding. These school referendums have seen high approval rates in recent years.

You might think that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic devastation would reverse the trend, but that is not what has happened this year.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 2:31 p.m. CST

As Wisconsin enters the holiday season grappling with its most severe coronavirus spread yet, schools continue to make varied decisions about whether to teach in-person or virtually.

The statewide teachers’ union wants that to change. The Wisconsin Education Association Council is asking the state for uniform rules about when schools should close.

Emily Files / WUWM

Update 11/19 1:35 p.m.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is asking the state supreme court to block the city of Racine's order closing schools. The conservative law firm is representing School Choice Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, and a handful of Racine private schools that are beholden to the order, include Racine Christian School and Racine Lutheran High School. 

Emily Files / WUWM

This fall, Wisconsin public schools reported unprecedented enrollment declines — particularly in the youngest grades. Four-year-old kindergarten, also known as pre-kindergarten, shrunk by more than 8,000 students statewide, a 16% decline. Regular kindergarten enrollment is down by about 3,000, a 5% decline.

>>Kindergarten Enrollment Plummets In Wisconsin Amid Pandemic

Emily Files / WUWM

Wisconsin State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor is calling for a $1.4 billion education funding increase over the next two school years.

The Department of Public Instruction released its budget ask Monday night. It would restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of school districts’ expenses. And it would put more money toward special education, mental health, students living in poverty, and English learners.

Courtesy of Georgia State University

Four southeast Wisconsin colleges have made an ambitious pledge: to close racial and income-based graduation gaps within the next 10 years.

Emily Files / WUWM

The about 70,000 students enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools will continue with virtual learning for the foreseeable future.

>>School Year Starts Virtually For All MPS Students

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 10/22 4:52 p.m.  

Four southeast Wisconsin schools are pledging to close racial and income gaps in college graduation by 2030.

UWM, MATC, UW-Parkside, and Carthage College are the first regional collective to join a national initiative from D.C.-based education firm EAB. The initiative is called Moon Shot for Equity.

COURTESY NAOSHI JOHNSON, JEREMIAH BAEZ AND MOO KO WAH

Back in April, WUWM talked with three Milwaukee high school seniors about how their college plans were made more uncertain by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the new school year is underway, we checked in with them to see how their plans panned out.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 4:17 p.m. CT

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a significant toll on school enrollment in Wisconsin – especially in the youngest grades.

Public schools lost about 25,000 students, or a 3% enrollment decline. That’s compared to roughly 0.5% declines the past two years. The biggest drop is in 4-year-old kindergarten. 4K numbers fell by about 16% this fall. Regular kindergarten enrollment fell by about 5%.

Emily Files / WUWM

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in Waukesha Thursday to talk with families who are unhappy with virtual learning and have switched their children to different schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

School choice – or providing alternatives to traditional public schools – is a central part of DeVos’ platform. At the Waukesha roundtable event, DeVos said the pandemic has made the case for school choice even stronger.

Emily Files / WUWM

This fall, students’ college decision-making process will look different. Some colleges are still doing in-person tours, but the coronavirus has shut down most face-to-face events.

Last weekend, Cardinal Stritch University found a way to bring back the in-person connection many high school seniors are looking for as they sort through college options: a drive-thru college fair. 

Around 10 a.m. Saturday morning, cars were turning off Port Washington Road onto the main drive surrounding the Cardinal Stritch campus in Glendale.

Emily Files / WUWM

COVID-19 cases, along with hospitalizations and deaths, have reached a high point in Wisconsin. State leaders are calling it a crisis.

In response, teachers’ unions from the state’s largest districts renewed their demand Wednesday that Gov. Tony Evers and Health Secretary Designee Andrea Palm mandate distance learning for all schools. And some schools are reconsidering their initial plans.

Emily Files / WUWM

Many children in the Milwaukee area have started the school year with remote learning. But not all parents have the ability to stay home and supervise.

So, some child care programs are adapting to facilitate virtual learning. One of them is the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, which has been running child care programs throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

>>School Year Starts Virtually For All MPS Students

Courtesy of Ava Rheeve

Back in July, school districts were in the throes of deciding how to safely reopen during a pandemic. The Cedarburg School District was initially not going to require mask-wearing in its buildings. But two high school students put up a fight. 

Steve Shupe / Creative Commons / Flickr

Whether college campuses can stay open safely during this pandemic is becoming more uncertain as the fall semester gets underway.

On Monday, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank sent an urgent directive to undergrad students: limit your social activity for the next 14 days or risk campus shutting down.

Emily Files / WUWM

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, K-12 schools in Wisconsin are making a variety of decisions about how to reopen.

Most Milwaukee schools are starting the year virtually. But some suburban districts and private schools are bringing students back in person, with a host of precautions.

>>School Year Starts Virtually For All MPS Students

Emily Files / WUWM

All Milwaukee Public School students are back in school this week – virtually. Tuesday was the first day for traditional start schools, which includes most elementary students. High schools and middle schools, most of which are on the district's early-start calendar, started on Aug. 17.

Emily Files / WUWM

Class is back in session at Marquette University — the largest private university in Wisconsin.

About 60% of Marquette’s classes are in-person, with the rest online or hybrid. Dorms and classrooms are at reduced capacity, and masks are required to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But instructors say they’re worried about the potential consequences of Marquette’s reopening, as they watch what’s happening at other schools that opened up in recent weeks.

SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

The University of Wisconsin System’s new interim leader wants to expand a free tuition promise program for low and moderate-income students to all UW campuses in the coming years. But it’s dependent on funding that may be difficult to procure during the COVID-19 crisis.

Emily Files / WUWM

Monday is the first day of school for most Milwaukee public high schools and middle schools. The rest of MPS schools start on Sept. 1.

It’s going to be a very different year. Milwaukee Public Schools, like many large districts across the country, is starting the semester virtually because of the risks posed by the coronavirus. The virtual learning will continue until at least Oct. 9.

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