West (copy)

Up to 22 West High School 10th and 11th graders will attend a micro school for the rest of the school year at the Boys and Girls Club on Taft Street. It's the second such school the district has opened, following a pilot micro school for La Follette for the final quarter of the 2017-18 school year.

Up to 22 West High School girls are attending a new Madison Metropolitan School District micro school at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County building on Taft Street.

MMSD director of youth re-engagement Paris Echoles said it’s an opportunity for the district to be “proactive” with students who are off-track for graduation.

“Engage students in the learning with them at the center and with them as a part of it,” he said. “The research shows once students have that buy-in, once students build that close relationship with individuals and are able to focus on themselves, the academic learning and advancement can be accelerated.”

The district also used a micro school in the fourth quarter of the 2017-18 school year, when at least 13 La Follette High School boys attended a school set up at the Life Center on Madison’s southeast side. Echoles said that school served as a pilot program and closed after that quarter.

The West micro school serves students in 10th and 11th grades, Echoles said, with one academic teacher, one special education teacher and one social worker staffing the program. While the school is all girls, he said they did not set out with that intention, but let the data drive the decision on who to bring to the micro school.

BGCDC Taft Street location site director Michelle Young said the contract with the district is for one year and students began coming to the site in late October.

“I just think it’s really awesome that they’re here,” Young said. “It feels more like a community center, like we’re reaching out to the community.”

The district approached BGCDC about the partnership, Young said.

The first three weeks of the new program have focused on being intentional about learning with students, Echoles said, using practices like morning circles and having students “see daily how they are represented in the learning and they have a voice in what that learning is and how that works for them.” Eventually, it will expand to specific credit-recovery opportunities to help the students get back on-track to graduate, he said.

“There’s this negative narrative around the fact that traditionally students are pulled out of schools for negative reasons where this, we’re being proactive ... trying to help students get back on track to graduate and also work on some of the social-emotional and other skills they feel they want to have to be successful,” he said. “Some of the identity work is key as well for students just knowing they have somebody who can understand who they are.”

Echoles said the program will be evaluated at the end of the year. The district will consider parent and student feedback in that conversation, with the program possibly expanding to other buildings.

“We’re trying to slow down and ask students and families to be part of the conversation as we build out what models for engaging all students in our district look like,” he said.

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.