Collective impact of Milwaukee Succeeds brightens education outlook

Supporting and improving education in Milwaukee has been a priority and commitment of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for over a century, evolving along with the educational landscape. While our focus remains on positive, enduring change, we are pleased to share meaningful points of recent progress made through this long-term journey supporting young people in our community. 

Milwaukee Succeeds was launched eight years ago in response to years of widening achievement gaps and educational disparities in our city. Housed in and supported by the Foundation, this education initiative unites partners across all sectors around the common vision of success for every child, in every school, cradle to career. Four goals within this vision guide the work: kindergarten readiness, school success, college and career readiness, and social and emotional learning. Milwaukee Succeeds approaches accomplishing these goals through collective impact and systems change, which invites all sectors to work together beyond the limits of the present system to innovate and scale practices that really work for kids. Here are a few highlights from our partnership’s work:  

  1. Boosting enrollment in high-quality child care: Along with affordability and accessibility, quality of early childhood care and education is necessary for kindergarten readiness. In 2018, 18% of children in Milwaukee receiving the WI Shares child care subsidy for low-income families were enrolled in “high quality” child care, rated four or five stars by YoungStar, Wisconsin’s quality rating system. This is up from 12% in 2015. Our partnership is learning that intensive supports for early childhood educators and programs helps child care centers improve their quality of care. 
  2. Increasing access to early childhood developmental screening: Early childhood developmental screening helps parents better understand how their child is developing and allows for early intervention if necessary. It is estimated that as few as one-third of children in Milwaukee are screened in their early years. Our partner, Children’s Medical Group, has prioritized screening by implementing this practice in 20 clinics, training 400 professionals and screening 10,000 children in the last year. 
  3. Evidence-based early literacy support for more students: Early grade reading proficiency is a necessary building block for all future learning. With 16% of third-graders in Milwaukee testing proficient by state standards, more children need early literacy support. Through Reading Foundations, our partners have brought evidence-based teacher coaching and individualized tutoring to more than 75 choice, charter and public schools throughout the city.
  4. Breaking down barriers for postsecondary graduates: In response to the large talent and skills gap in southeastern Wisconsin, 18 higher education institutions have come together to form the Higher Education Regional Alliance (HERA). Representing more than 96% of postsecondary students in our region, this collaborative effort is committed to advancing our communities’ future success. Since launching last fall, HERA has developed three focus areas for moving forward: increasing college completion rates; connecting employers to talent; and increasing program innovation, growth and alignment.  
  5. Social and emotional learning capacity-building: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) gives young people the tools to learn and understand skills like managing emotions and making responsible decisions. Research shows that incorporating SEL into schools leads to healthier school environments. Our partnership is working closely with Playworks in building school and teacher capacity to implement and sustain in-school SEL practices. We have seen a 35% drop in recess-related discipline referrals in the 11 schools with which we have worked during the 2018-19 school year. 
  6. Investing in long-term systems change: Along with dedication and time, systems change requires resources. The Foundation and four other funders recognized this need in 2015 and created the Milwaukee Succeeds Funders Collaborative. The other funders are Bader Philanthropies, Herb Kohl Philanthropies, Northwestern Mutual Foundation and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. Projects that work to decrease disparities and increase equity through innovation and scale at the system-level are funded by this collaborative, which has provided over $2 million in grants over the last three-and-a-half years. 

For additional detail on these highlights and other accomplishments, see the Milwaukee Succeeds 2018 Annual Report. For even more information, along with supporting data, please visit the Milwaukee Succeeds website.