Diminishing school performance and the various problems from home can echo in the halls of a failing school. However, when hope seems to have left the building it does not mean it won’t return with a miracle. The George Washington Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science was once in the shadowy grip of closure, but was pulled out by City Year Milwaukee, Teach For America Milwaukee and Schools That Can Milwaukee. The Neighborhood News Service Milwaukee has written an impressive piece about how a collaboration has affected the school as a whole:

Every weekday, City Year Milwaukee corps member Katy Amphlett, 23, arrives at 7:30 a.m. to take her place on the playground at the Dr. George Washington Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science.

Dressed in a bright red blazer, she waits with nine fellow corps members and staff to greet children emerging from a fleet of buses. The City Year team leads the pupils in cheers and activities ranging from reciting school pledges to hand slaps on “High-Five Thursdays.”

Amphlett is part of a unique multi-organizational effort to help turn around Carver Academy, 1900 N. 1st St., a struggling K-8 Milwaukee Public School with approximately 500 students located in Brewer’s Hill.

Overseen by Principal Janel L. Hawkins, who has led Carver since July 2012, three nonprofit organizations—Schools That Can Milwaukee, Teach for America – Milwaukee and City Year Milwaukee—have partnered with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) to assist administrators, teachers and students at Carver throughout the school year.

The collaboration is the only one of its kind in the city. Carver is the only school in Milwaukee—public or otherwise—to have the collaborative support of all three organizations at once, according to Isral DeBruin, manager of communications and development at Schools That Can Milwaukee.

“This effort is aimed at improving individual student achievement by using the synergy that the partner organizations, in conjunction with strong school leadership, can provide,” said MPS spokesman Tony Tagliavia. “Our vision for the school is to create a high-performing school that neighborhood families seek out for their children.”

Supported by a grant from Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the three nonprofits are working with Hawkins as she attempts to create a “culture of joy” at Carver, which survived a recommendation for closure as part of a long-term plan submitted to the MPS School Board in late 2011.

Nonprofit Partnerships

MPS and the three nonprofits selected Carver because of its capacity and “significant room for improvement” as a K-8 school, according to Tagliavia. Carver had new leadership and teaching vacancies, both factors that made the school ideal for the collaboration, Tagliavia said.

“Each of our organizations is targeting a different aspect of the school, and by doing that we hope to accelerate the transformation of Carver under Ms. Hawkin’s leadership,” said Kole Knueppel, co-founder and managing director of school partnerships at Schools That Can Milwaukee (STCM).

The nonprofits began discussing collaborating strategically in a single school last fall, according to Jason Holton, executive director of City Year Milwaukee. In early 2013, the organizations identified Carver as an opportune site for “complementary” collaboration, and the partnership solidified over the course of the summer, Holton said.

STCM is assisting Hawkins directly through a team of leadership and instructional coaches. Four days a week, School Leadership Coach April Knox consults one-on-one with Hawkins to develop plans to improve Carver’s school culture and student achievement.

“We’re hoping to see consistent growth in one to three years,” Knox said. “Our goal is to see that each scholar is growing.”

The coaching team also provides professional development for Carver teachers. In August, STCM held a three-day teacher institute for Carver’s approximately 25 faculty members.

STCM is providing some level of school leadership coaching this year to 34 schools, including Carver, according to DeBruin.

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