The Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership (MCSP) is led by a team of three agencies
- Milwaukee Public Schools
- Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
- United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County
These three partners work together to support schools, improve education, and help our community thrive. Milwaukee Public Schools currently has 16 schools, known as Community Schools, that are active in the MCSP. Learn how this work is helping students succeed!
What Is a Community School?
A Community School is focused on the needs of its families. Students, staff, families, and the community create a plan and seek ways to build a strong network of support.
In addition to the three MCSP partners, each Community School is paired with a local organization to serve as the school’s lead partner. These agencies offer a variety of volunteers, knowledge, and supports. This added support helps school leaders deliver an excellent education and meet the needs of families.
Community Schools actively encourage family involvement. Parents are a child’s first teachers, and family members know children best. In MPS Community Schools, family members are part of the team and are welcome at school events, meetings, and as volunteers to support classrooms and programs. Families have a voice in decision making in Community Schools.
- Community Schools are becoming hubs across the city where students and families feel safe, have access to resources, and trust staff and partners to pursue excellence for every child.
- Community Schools are becoming beacons for business partners and community volunteers.
- Community schools are building pride in our neighborhoods.
Community School Goals
Community Schools are driven to transform schools into places where students, families, staff, and the community are working together to help every student succeed. Community Schools value each student as an individual with unique needs. These schools offer many resources so each student can grow into a healthy, confident scholar. MCSP schools offer:
- Academic supports
- Social and emotional learning
- Health and wellness
- Family and community engagement
- Safe and supportive climate
Community School Coordinators
At the heart of each Community School is a dedicated coordinator who works full time to understand families, support leadership, and work with partners to identify needs and explore creative solutions. The Community School Coordinator carries out communications among all groups, identifies priorities, and uses strategies that target an overarching goal: Every child has the chance to succeed.
How Community Schools Thrive
Each Community School uses different strategies and activities to improve the school and community using the same guiding practices.
Shared Leadership: Decision making in each school is driven by students, staff, families, and neighbors who have an interest in the school. Together, these groups develop and carry out selected strategies.
- Community School Leadership Team: Identifies needs and determines strategies to best ensure student and school success.
- Family Leadership Organization: Builds family leadership by creating safe, welcoming spaces.
- Youth Council: Develops youth leadership by creating open communication so students feel heard and valued.
- Collaborative Staff: Promotes communication and forms bonds among school staff.
Equity: Students, families, and staff have the resources they need to be successful. School leaders are able to organize and manage partnerships and resources.
- Community Assessment: Each school identifies priorities and uses student data to inform goals and strategies.
- School Vision and Priorities: Each school develops a shared vision that focuses on local priorities and supports the whole child. This vision is communicated to all stakeholders and has measures for accountability.
Cultural Relevance: Schools transform the way they relate and interact with their students, families, and community in culturally relevant and restorative ways. These efforts lead to positive school culture, strong trust, and high-quality teaching.
- Culturally Responsive Practices: Schools receive support to implement strategies that build on the assets of the entire community, acknowledge personal and institutional biases, and respond to the identities of students, families, staff, and community members.
- Restorative Practices: Schools receive support to implement restorative practices and other positive behavior strategies. These help to build proactive, positive relationships and repair any harm to restore relationships with dignity and care.
The Community School Strategy
Community Schools follow a unique strategy to bring together people, ideas, and resources through a process that maximizes engagement for the benefit of students.
Engage: A full-time Community School Coordinator increases capacity of the school to work with interested parties including students, families, staff, community partners, and neighborhood residents.
Aspire: Schools collectively identify school and community goals and barriers to success. This is done by collecting opinions through many channels and integrating school and community data.
Prioritize: The site-based Community School Leadership Team analyzes data then develops a shared vision, key priorities, and strategic plan through collaboration with stakeholders.
Align: To promote collaboration and collective action, community partnerships, initiatives, and policies are developed and/or aligned to support a shared vision and key priorities reflected in the School Improvement Plan.
In 2014, a bus of about 50 school staff, parents, and community members traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the Coalition for Community Schools Conference. This experience allowed attendees to see community schools in action and engage with people around the country, and the collective experience was energizing for everyone. Later, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors released a grant process for school improvement, resulting in three schools being selected to be Community Schools. The formal partnership among Milwaukee Public Schools, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association was then founded. After the development of the partnership, community conversations engaged students, staff, families, and the community, resulting in the current strategy that is grounded in three practices: shared leadership, equity, and cultural relevance.
Currently, 16 MPS schools are engaged in the partnership, supported by 10 partner organizations and serving more than 7,000 students within the district.