Lincoln Elementary students

Students exit Lincoln Elementary School after their first day of classes Sept. 1 in Madison. The Urban League of Greater Madison's bold proposal for boosting minority achievement with an unusual academy deserves a chance to succeed.

Superintendent Dan Nerad acknowledged last week that existing Madison School District programs aimed at boosting minority achievement "are not having the impact we need for our kids."

"The data is telling us we need to do different things," Nerad added.

And the Urban League of Greater Madison's proposal for an unusual public charter school catering to low-income blacks and Latinos "has elevated the conversation, and I appreciate that," the superintendent said.

"I'm not raising any concerns about the programming side of it," he told the State Journal editorial board.

It sounded like a windup to endorsing the Madison Preparatory Academy, which faces a final vote by the Madison School Board on Monday night.

Instead, Nerad is recommending the School Board reject the academy, primarily because of complicated contract language.

That shouldn't happen.

This is too big of an opportunity for Madison and its struggling minority and low-income students. Madison needs community leaders on the School Board to put the interests of these kids ahead of technicalities and politics.

Where there's a will, there's a way. Madison should make this happen. If it wants to, it can.

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No more excuses.

The racial and economic achievement gaps in Madison schools have been highlighted, scrutinized and targeted for decades — without needed results.

Fewer than half of all black, male students in Madison, for example, graduate from high school. That's a shocking statistic that leads to higher poverty, crime and human misery. That represents so much lost potential and higher cost for our community.

Madison Prep is hardly a sure thing. It strives to succeed where so many attempts have failed before it.

But unlike past attempts, the Urban League is offering truly bold action — two same-sex schools, one for boys and one for girls. The idea is to reduce distractions and cater to differing needs.

Madison Prep promises to hire more minority and, for the boys, male teachers as role models. The school would have higher academic and behavioral standards, uniforms, longer school days and a longer school year, required extracurricular activities, internships with local businesses and even report cards for parents based on their involvement.

Just as importantly, Madison Prep has incredible community support, including millions in private donations.

Enough talk. Enough study, negotiation and legalese. We've had decades of that.

The School Board should vote "yes" on Madison Prep because it offers an enormous chance to do something big — to do something now — to save more of our lost children.

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