MPA Initiatives


Characteristics of a High Performing Urban Classroom

The development of this set of eight Characteristics of a High Performing Urban Classroom was initiated through a two-day retreat of selected members from the MPA partner organizations. The goal of the retreat was to identify what one would see in a high performing urban classroom and to determine what evidence we would see from students and teachers to support this designation of high quality. In addition, the retreat participants discussed what support would need to be provided by both the school and central services to help all classrooms in MPS to become high performing. The MPA work group on Teacher and Principal Quality played the key role in the development of this document which is now being utilized throughout the district and the local teacher preparation programs.

For more detailed information concerning the Characteristics of a High Performing Urban Classroom, click here.


Working under the auspices of the Teacher and Principal Quality Work Group, the MPA created a comprehensive framework for induction. This framework is unique as it views induction as a school-based responsibility rather than just as the responsibility of a mentor teacher. In other words, the entire school is responsible for supporting its new teacher, and the support for new teachers is brokered by the school's Learning Team. This framework is described in the publication Teacher Induction for Urban Education Handbook. For the brochure on Teacher Induction for Urban Education, click here.

NEA Foundation Grant: Closing the Achievement Gaps in Milwaukee

Through the work of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy (MPA), Milwaukee Public Schools has many systems in place for supporting closing the achievement gap. Frameworks for teaching and learning have been set up through the District Learning Targets and the Comprehensive Literacy and Mathematics Frameworks. Support has been provided for the schools at the district level through the literacy and mathematics specialists and at the school level through the literacy coaches, math teacher leaders and the Learning Teams. The work now is to provide the time and resources needed to take all these systems that are in place and make a difference at the classroom level. The strategies and activities that will be implemented will ensure impact at the classroom level in closing the achievement gap. The activities to close the achievement gap over six years include:

  • Hosting the Urban Leadership Institute to support Learning Teams in designing and implementing educational plans to close the achievement gap
  • Showcasing exemplar schools at conferences hosted by the MPA, and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators (MMABSE) Save Our Students Closing the Achievement Gap Summit
  • Supporting teacher leaders in pro-actively closing the achievement gap through a MMABSE hosted teacher-leader workshop.
  • Providing Closing the Gap Action Plan stipends to support:
    • Learning Teams researching and exploring best practices that engage all stakeholders
    • Learning Teams planning and implementing professional development to close the achievement gap
    • Classroom teachers using data driven best-practice that will close the achievement gap (i.e. action research)
    • Learning Teams planning and implementing a comprehensive induction program which will include a high quality, common planning time, ongoing professional development, an external network of teachers and standards-based evaluation (PI-34)
    • Classroom teachers in effective family involvement

Click here for the list of NEA Focus Schools. (pdf file)

Click here for the Implementation Plan. (pdf file)

Differentiated Compensation

The Milwaukee Partnership Academy, Learning Point Associates and the Joyce Foundation were interested in adding a critical voice: a dialogue with practicing teachers on teacher recruitment and retention in hard-to-staff schools. The MPA was the lead in the establishment of a Differentiated Compensation Task Force between the school district, universities and the teacher union. The task force, co-chaired by the Director of Human Recourses and the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, met monthly to establish the Guiding Principles for Further Investigation of a Differentiated Compensation System. The work is still ongoing. The conversations are difficult, but necessary if the district is going to attract teachers to the schools in most need.

Teachers for a New Era (TNE)

This is a major grant awarded to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by the Carnegie Corporation of New York with additional support from the Annenberg and Ford Foundations. The Milwaukee Partnership Academy is a major partner in this grant. The Executive Partners, Implementation Team members and other MPA partners participated in the site visits that lead to the awarding of this grant. In part, the strength of the partnership was a critical reason for this award.

The Executive Director of the MPA, a representative of Milwaukee Public Schools Administration, and the Principal Investigator of the NEA Foundation Grant (MTEA) are required members of the Steering Committee for the TNE grant. TNE is designed to increase the quality of teaching in K-12 classrooms by improving the quality of teacher education programs and enhancing the position of teacher education at each participating TNE institution. UWM is one of 11 institutions of higher education across the country selected to be part of this effort. This initiative is based on the belief that good teacher preparation begins with work in the arts, letters and sciences and continues through professional coursework and clinical experiences in K-12 schools. Three goals of TNE are embodied in three design principles:

Design Principle 1: Teacher education programs are built on evidence from research.

Design Principle 2: Collaboration between faculty in the arts, letters and sciences and education is essential for building a sound foundation in liberal arts and the disciplines.

Design Principle 3: Teaching is a clinical profession in which new teachers require a period of dedicated support during the first induction years.

For more information concerning Teachers for a New Era, please click here.

Learning Teams

As part of a comprehensive reform strategy to improve the quality of teaching and learning, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) initiated Learning Teams in 2002-2003. These building-based teams were conceptualized as the primary means by which schools would develop capacity for improvement, both through the analysis of local school data and job embedded professional development at the local school site. These teams are not committees, but rather strategic action teams. They are based on the concept that the capacity for school improvement lies in a leadership model that draws on the joint expertise of principals and teachers. Each Learning Team has as its core members the principal, the literacy coach, and the math teacher leader. The literacy coach and math teacher leader are essential to the comprehensive literacy and mathematics frameworks adopted by the district. A small number of other individuals identified at the school site join this core group to complete the team. A formative assessment of Learning Teams was completed in 2006. For more information on Learning Teams, click here.

Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership (MMP)

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Public Schools, and the Milwaukee Area Technical College comprise the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership. As a member of the Milwaukee Partnership Academy, a community-wide collaborative PK-16 effort among school, university, union, government, business, and community organizations, the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership seeks to substantially improve mathematics achievement for all of the K-12 Milwaukee Public Schools students.

The Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership is helping to shape up math education. The Partnership involves mathematics faculty and mathematics educators in collaboration with PK-12 educators in strengthening district curricula, student assessment measures, and re-designing pre-service and in-service teacher preparation focused on the needs of an urban district. Through this Partnership, the Institutions of Higher Education Mathematics Network, consisting of 2- and 4-year colleges and universities, will be established to focus on the mathematical preparation and continued growth of PK-12 teachers and to improve the transition of students to post secondary education.

The Partnership embraces four major goals in order to improve student achievement:

Ultimately, the Partnership will collect evidence of what is working, why, where, and for whom related to three major domains: Student Learning, Teacher Learning, and Collective Vision and Leadership for Mathematics. This includes measures of the degree to which a true effective partnership was established and identification of the defining attributes of such a partnership.

For more information, please click here.

Teachers-in-Residence (TIR) Program

The TIR program could not have been implemented without a context that supported the creation of a cohort of practitioners and welcomed them into roles that spanned the entire spectrum of the teacher preparation program from general education requirements through letters, sciences and arts requirements, the professional sequence and into the first years of teaching. The platform and support mechanism for the TIR program is the Milwaukee Partnership Academy (MPA).

The TIR program brought a ‘real’ view of teaching to campus. It has allowed for better communication between university faculty and district teachers and schools. The students in MPS classrooms became a bit more real to faculty and students on campus…We had deeper discussions on issues of equity based on real life experiences…We helped to broaden acceptance among faculty of the contributions that practicing teachers can bring to enhance the theoretical aspect of the teacher education program…I believe that the presence of a TIR serves to narrow the gap between theory and practice. (Teacher-In-Residence Exit Interviews, May/June 2004)

In Spring of 2000 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), the Teachers-in-Residence (TIR) Program began. This program was supported through a U.S. Department of Education Title II: Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant, and was designed to integrate the expertise of veteran urban teachers into all phases of preservice teacher preparation at the university. The goal of the TIR program was twofold. First, a cohort of veteran teachers was selected from the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to work as equal partners in the teacher preparation program at UWM. Second, a Teacher Leadership Institute was developed to further prepare the TIRs as outstanding veteran teachers who, upon returning to the district, could assume a variety of leadership roles.

While maintaining their status as teachers in MPS, the TIRs are placed on special assignment at UWM for a two-year period. This is accomplished through funding from a number of grants. A Memorandum of Understanding was developed between MPS and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) which allows for a more flexible working schedule and a broader range of role definitions for the TIRs. In this position, the TIRs have as their primary mission the creation of a link between academic teacher preparation and urban classroom practice. This is the focus of the boundary spanning in each of the TIR positions. TIRs accept responsibility for promoting enhanced teacher recruitment, preparation, retention and support across a variety of roles within and outside of UWM, including:

  • TIR mentors of new teachers
  • School of Education Professional Program Block TIRs
  • Letters and Science Support TIRS
  • Cultures and Communities Support TIRs
  • Liaisons with the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) in the Teacher Education Program (TEP)


Literacy Coaches

The position of Literacy Coach was developed and implemented to provide the human resources for professional development for teachers in the area of literacy. Assigning a Literacy Coach to each building enables teachers to engage in job-embedded professional development, that is, professional development that can take place during the day within the context of teachers’ daily work. For this reason, one of the most important functions of a Literacy Coach is to demonstrate various literacy teaching strategies within classrooms, to observe teachers trying out new strategies, and to provide feedback to teachers as they work to improve their literacy teaching from a balanced, comprehensive literacy framework. Their primary function is to interact with classroom teachers to improve the quality of literacy teaching and learning. To continue providing the highest quality of literacy training, Literacy Coaches participate in regular, required training sessions as part of their regular job assignments.

Literacy Specialists

The MPS Literacy Specialists provide leadership for the Literacy Coaches. Each Literacy Specialist is responsible for a group of Literacy Coaches and works directly with them to facilitate the implementation of this concept of professional development. In addition, the Literacy Specialists provide ongoing professional development for the Literacy Coaches at regularly scheduled training sessions. These sessions include a range of topics appropriate to the function of Literacy Coaches across all levels from K-12.

Literacy Coaches and Literacy Specialists are an important example of what it means to build a professional learning community in each school. Literacy Coaches are intended to be staff members whose work is dedicated to improving the quality of literacy teaching in every building; that is, they coach teachers to improve the quality of their literacy teaching practice. The concept of coaching as a fundamental professional development strategy across the district has been extended with the introduction of coaches for each principal in MPS.


Math Teacher Leaders

As part of the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership, Math Teacher Leaders were identified in each MPS school. They work with mathematics faculty, administrators and other teachers as part of an effort to provide classroom teachers with coaching and resources to improve their mathematics teaching abilities, and, eventually, students’ achievement.

The work of the Math Teacher Leaders, introduced to schools at mid-year in the 2003-2004 school year, is similar to that done by school Literacy Coaches in the subjects of reading and writing. Like the Literacy Coaches, introduced in the 2002-2003 school year, the Math Teacher Leaders are members of the school learning teams. The MPA collaboration helped plan and implement the subject-area coaches, Learning Teams and other changes as part of an effort to assure every child in the public schools is learning at grade level. One key goal is to provide teachers with “embedded professional development” – opportunities to fine-tune their teaching techniques through coaching and other resources provided within their own schools.

The Math Teacher Leaders are a key link between classroom teachers and resources available through local colleges and universities and can help teachers deepen their own understanding of mathematics. One of the key resources for the Math Teacher Leaders is the Math Teaching Specialists.

Math Teaching Specialists

The MPS Math Teaching Specialists provide leadership for the Math Teacher Leaders. Each Math Teaching Specialist is responsible for a group of Math Teacher Leaders and works directly with them to facilitate the implementation of this concept of professional development. In addition, the Math Teaching Specialists provide ongoing professional development for the Math Teacher Leaders and other school staff. These sessions include a range of topics appropriate to the function of Math Teacher Leaders across all levels from K-12.

To see the comprehensive mathematics framework, click here.

For more information on the Milwaukee Mathematics Partnership, click here.