Where is the disconnect for Milwaukee students?

Lately I’ve been volunteering at my grandson’s grade school. I’m there for lunch and recess and watch as the little kids make their way through the school day.

And I’ve been struck by the disconnect I see between these kids and the dismal performance record of the Milwaukee Public Schools system.

I see these kids walk down the hall, orderly, being disciplined and respectful of classmates and adults. I see the bright faces, eager for what the day brings. I look at their classrooms, filled with color and achievement.

I watch them respond when things get a little out of hand. A couple of hand claps and a voice or two and these kids are back in line. Nobody’s pushing or shoving. Nobody throws anything.

These kids are enjoying their day. If you’ve been around long enough, you can tell when children are enjoying themselves and when they are bored or unhappy. These are kids who are enjoying themselves.

I feel like a Dick and Jane book. See the pictures. See the writing. See the math problems solved successfully. See the pages of a book slide by as each one gets red. See the teachers care and work hard every day.

What this does, is make me wonder. What in the world goes on in the lives of a child who is going to go from this bright faced kid to a high school dropout with a future that is crucially limited? Half of these kids are not going to make it through high school. They are probably going to live in Milwaukee, and we’ll have thousands of more under-educated and under-trained adults to deal with.

It’s not enough to say it’s their home and environment. Too many kids from shaky homes and environments make it successfully. It’s something else. And it happens somewhere; 4th grade or 6th grade or 8th grade. But somewhere and if we could just pinpoint where it happens and when it happens, we might be able to figure out why it happens.

From there, it’s just a step to figuring out what to do about it.

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