Former First Lady Michelle Obama, visiting Milwaukee on a book promotion tour, made a surprise visit to a successful charter school, the Milwaukee Collegiate Academy. Obama and comedian Conan O’Brien spoke with 15 high school juniors.
“All of the students received a signed copy of Mrs. Obama’s book, ‘Becoming,'” Fox 6 News in Milwaukee reported. “They also got tickets to Thursday night’s lecture.”
The Milwaukee Collegiate Academy “is a public, charter high school delivering a college-focused education to high school students for nearly 15 years,” according to the school’s website. Despite a relatively low overall score on the state’s report card (55, or “Meets Few Expectations”), the school boasts that 100 percent of its graduates for the last six years have been accepted to college. The school has an 82.4 score for closing racial achievement gaps compared to a state average of 67.7 and a score of 92 for its graduation rate compared to a state average of 90.6.
Obama’s fellow Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, a former state Superintendent of Public Instruction, has called for ending the expansion of charter schools like Milwaukee Collegiate Academy in his proposed state budget. Evers’ proposal was quickly criticized by Republican legislators and education reform advocates when it was announced.
“Instead of working with the legislature to help high-performing schools expand, Governor Evers has doubled down on politics, siding with special interests over children,” said CJ Szafir, Vice President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). “Independent public charter schools and private schools in the voucher program are the highest performing sector in Milwaukee, and some are among the best performing in the state when it comes to educating low-income students. Stopping these schools only serves to help the teachers’ unions – not students.”
The Fox 6 News report by Amy Dupont did not indicate if Obama was asked if she agreed with Evers regarding charter schools. Instead, the television news report described the students meeting with the former First Lady as “lucky” and described the meeting in fawning terms. “It was a candid conversation with a powerful message taken in by a group of students with the best seat in the house,” Dupont reported.
Interestingly, Obama did not visit the school the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) district named after her husband, President Barack Obama. The school, the Obama School of Career and Technical Education, “a traditional, neighborhood, Head Start school,” has an overall score of 35.3 or “Fails to Meet Expectations.” The school scores a 59.2 for closing the achievement gaps and a 42.6 score for its graduation rate.
The MPS district has an overall score of 57 out of 100, or “Meets Few Expectations.” MPS has 39 schools that rate Fails to Meet Expectations, with 22,446 students attending those failing schools. According to the state’s school report card data, independent charter schools and schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program generally do better than traditional schools in MPS.