Dear Editor: Madison’s school board made a grievous mistake in 2011 when it rejected the Urban League’s Madison Prep charter school proposal developed by Black community leaders like UW Professor Gloria Ladson-Billings, perhaps America’s leading voice on culturally-responsive education. Since then, our community has continued bemoaning the immense achievement gap between Black and white students. Now, thanks to the uber-generosity of Pleasant Rowland and dogged determination of CEO Kaleem Caire, One City Schools has a chance to demonstrate the path to success on this issue that has long confounded the Madison district and consistently failed generations of Black children.
Interestingly, the forces that — however well-intentioned — defeated Madison Prep now support a candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction (Pecatonica Superintendent Jill Underly) whose district enrollment is 99% white and smaller than most Madison middle schools. At the same time, and unfortunately with amplification from the Cap Times, they have done a hatchet job on her opponent (former Brown Deer Superintendent Deborah Kerr) who dramatically narrowed achievement gaps in a 50% low-income district with 80% kids of color, and whose integrity, expertise and leadership skills were recognized by her peers who elected her to head the state and national associations of school superintendents, and by her local school board which retained her as the district’s leader for 13 years (an unusually long tenure for any school district superintendent).
I fear that choosing Underly over Kerr will find us, 10 years from now, still wringing our hands over Wisconsin’s worst-in-the-nation student achievement gap.
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