Message From The Dean

What do Bill Gates, the US government, the Carnegie Corporation and the Herzfeld family have in common? They don’t believe in the adage of “if you want something done right then do it yourself.” In fact, they believe quite the opposite and all are contributing to making education in Milwaukee better, stronger and more effective.

The School of Education (SOE) and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), with the Milwaukee Partnership Academy (MPA), have worked hard side by side and in return have been awarded with four grants that support education initiatives throughout the city. What many don’t realize is that there are multiple links between and among the four grants, with more than 100 schools, area higher education institutions such as UWM and MATC, and several business partners. These links were fully intentional and are helping bring national attention to all involved. But, first, let me tell you about the grants themselves.

Over the summer, SOE received a $5 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation to support the early development of teachers. Together with MPS, SOE developed a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant proposal to enhance mathematics instruction in MPS, and we’ve just heard that the $20 million grant has been approved. Additionally, the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation in Milwaukee has awarded a $100,000 grant to continue the good work of learning teams within MPS. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced in July a $17 million investment that will be used to redesign seven large MPS high schools and create 40 new and more focused small high schools throughout area. The New Vision of Secondary Education grant aims to expand options for students and parents.


The $5 million Carnegie grant focuses on further developing the initial preparation of teachers with a major emphasis on the arts, sciences and humanities. Our grant proposal highlighted collaborative teacher preparation efforts within the university and the community. SOE is partnering with UWM’s College of Letters & Science and the Peck School of the Arts to improve teachers’ academic preparation. This grant also addresses the development of a stronger mentoring program for our graduates in their first few years of teaching, when challenges are many and attrition is high. In other words, teachers who graduate from UWM will be better prepared to teach in MPS, will receive additional help and support through mentors, and will remain in the classroom.


The Herzfeld grant will help strengthen mentoring relationships through the expanded support to MPS learning teams. Ten teams will receive $10,000 each to enhance their efforts, and they will play a key role in providing support for novice teachers. Rather than a single mentor, new teachers will get support from different teachers for different areas such as curriculum, technology, acclimation to their new school’s community and culture, and feedback on their teaching. In this manner, SOE contributes to a cooperative school culture, also known as a learning community, which is a major priority for MPS Superintendent Bill Andrekopoulos. These teams are also designed to increase student achievement. Key members of the learning teams are the principal, the literacy coach, and other teacher leaders. I strongly believe that the focused efforts and dogged determination of the learning teams and literacy coaches are directly responsible for the increases in MPS student achievement last year.

On a related note and as another example of a direct link, SOE is developing a prototype under the Title II grant for preparing teacher leaders through our Teachers in Residence program. The resulting leaders are the very same people who will support novice teachers in their early years at MPS. Two of our faculty, Marleen Pugach and Ken Howey, have been working weekly with MPA members to prepare literacy coaches and learning teams and to put in place more rigorous professional development for all teachers. But the ties don’t stop here.


While the Herzfeld and Carnegie grants will directly impact mentors, new teachers, learning teams and literacy coaches, the NSF grant will greatly enhance mathematics instruction in MPS. Just as the Title II grant was the primary catalyst for a comprehensive literacy framework, the NSF grant serves as a catalyst for the development of a mathematics framework that will directly impact students, teachers and teacher educators. Clear and common standards, learning targets, and classroom-based assessments are being put in place. Just as the learning teams and the literacy coaches have provided excellent assistance in literacy, adding teachers with expertise in math to the learning teams will improve mathematics curriculum and instruction.


Speaking of numbers, the Gates grant focuses on developing small high schools from large ones and creating small schools and schools within schools. Thirty of the 40 new high schools will be created within or in partnership with MPS. The additional 10 will be created in conjunction with Alliance for Choices in Education (ACE). There are at least two major connections with the other grants and initiatives. First, the small working groups of teachers in the small schools will resemble in many respects the learning teams we are developing, and they will benefit from the leadership development activities provided for them. Additionally, there are major staff development and leadership development funds attached to the Gates grant. Our work in MPA to develop potent professional development activities at every school site will help with needed professional development for small high school staff. We are also developing a master plan for professional development for MPS through the MPA. Overall, the comprehensive literacy and mathematics initiatives will also benefit the new smaller high schools by ultimately improving student achievement.

All the grants will benefit students through better instruction and improved learning and achievement. Parents will be able to acquire extra tutoring support for their children when needed. Prospective teachers will have better field placement experiences in pre-service and more help during their critical and formative first years of teaching. Veteran teachers are receiving multiple forms of assistance to extend and enrich their understandings and abilities. Finally, the entire community will benefit from better-prepared students who graduate from high school and who are prepared for college.

I want to thank the UWM faculty who have been pivotal in garnering more grant money than any other college of education in the country during this time. They include Linda Post, Marleen Pugach, Ken Howey, Nancy Zimpher, DeAnn Huinker and Henry Kepner. To the benefit of us all, they have positioned UWM centrally in major reforms in MPS and, indeed, in the entire community.

—Alfonzo Thurman

Dean, School of Education

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