Cooper Elementary earns Schools That Can achievement honor

Educators and students at James Fenimore Cooper School are beginning the new school year with a new recognition for their achievement from local nonprofit Schools That Can Milwaukee.

Students, teachers, and community leaders will celebrate the honor at 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at the school, 5143 S. 21st St. The event will feature student performances.

Cooper is being named a Member School of Schools That Can Milwaukee and its national affiliate, Schools That Can. The award recognizes open-enrollment schools that serve students from low-income households at an exceptional level of quality. A panel of educators and experts from across the country considered a range of qualitative indicators and quantitative metrics, including student outcomes. Cooper’s student results – attendance rates and scores on state standardized assessments – exceed citywide and statewide averages.

The honor is well-deserved, said Abby Andrietsch, executive director at Schools That Can Milwaukee.

“Cooper’s performance is simply outstanding. This is a school that is serving all kinds of students at a high level,” Andrietsch said. “Not only are schoolwide student outcomes above the state average, but students with disabilities and those from low-income households are also performing better than their peers around Wisconsin.”

Andrietsch said the award gives Cooper staff and students access to national and local programming and scholarships. In addition, the Schools That Can Milwaukee staff will honor the school community later this year with a day of service to beautify the campus.

This is not the first time veteran principal Jennifer Doucette and the Cooper team have been recognized for their work: In recent years the state of Wisconsin has recognized the school as a School of Merit for its work with the Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports (PBIS) program. State Superintendent Tony Evers tapped Doucette to serve on an achievement gap task force, aimed in part at helping other schools around the state replicate some of the strategies in use at Cooper.

What is the secret? Doucette, now in her ninth year leading the school, attributed the success to her talented, committed team and the network of relationships they have forged.

“We have an absolutely incredible community of dedicated educators here at Cooper,” Doucette said. “Every adult in this building comes to work each day totally committed to providing all children exactly what they need to succeed.”

Over the past three school years, Doucette and her team have received support and training from school leadership coaches at Schools That Can Milwaukee. This has included intensive, onsite coaching and monthly training sessions that connect Cooper leaders with other educators from MPS, independent charter, and private voucher school leaders from across the city.

Cooper is the first neighborhood school in Milwaukee to receive the recognition of Schools That Can Member. Other Milwaukee schools on the list include independent charter schools Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, Carmen Schools of Science & Technology – South Campus and Milwaukee College Prep – 36th Street Campus, and private schools Notre Dame Middle School and St. Marcus Lutheran School, both of which participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice school voucher program. Along with Cooper, Carmen South and MCP 36th are part of Milwaukee Public Schools.

These six Member Schools are part of a 45-school network supported by Schools That Can Milwaukee. The organization provides on-the-job coaching and customized professional development to more than 250 educators, in turn impacting about 16,000 students. The organization works to expand existing high-quality schools, partner with high-potential schools to accelerate their transition to high-quality and recruit and grow school leadership talent for Milwaukee.

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