It has been a remarkable 15 years since we founded Milwaukee College Prep. Working with Milwaukee Buck's forward Junior Bridgeman, we launched with 76 inaugural students in 1997 and serve some of the poorest, most troubled neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
Today, Milwaukee College Prep serves over 1300 students, all accepted through a blind lottery, on three campuses. Our eighth-graders outperformed the state on the 2011 WKCE test with 90 percent of the scholars scoring proficient or better in reading and 83 percent in math.
Robert Rauh and the staff at Milwaukee College Prep deserve credit for their tireless dedication and leadership. They have worked diligently and persistently to help our students succeed.
Closer examination of some of the principles that are at the foundation of our success offer important lessons for anyone:
No excuses. Never give up.
Our success is based on a belief that all children will learn and we don't make excuses. In fact, we believe students don't fail, teachers do. This means we must look for a way to serve every child. For some, it may take a little longer, but we never give up. Why? We understand the huge cost of failure. It costs Milwaukee an average of $1.7 million over a lifetime if a child does not graduate from high school.
Recruit, train and retain great people
We commit time to find the right people. We find people who strongly believe they are the key to a student's success and that they can make a difference. We do mission-based hiring and spend a lot of time finding the right people. Plus, we retain the right to hire and fire our faculty and reward them for success. Why? It takes 2-3 years of great teaching to make up for 1 year with a poor teacher. We also invest in training so teachers develop the skills to be successful and then, we give them respect and autonomy in the classroom. We support them with academic deans who provide critical support and feedback. The result? Our tenure is longer because we have a sustainable model that recognizes what a teacher needs to "stick with it."
Sticking to what you do best.
We believe it is possible to serve any child at any school if the right conditions exist. We have modeled and replicated a process that works. We plan to expand to serve more students without compromising our ability to produce excellent results and improve opportunities for at-risk children.
What's ahead for the next 15 years? We'd like to grow to 5 campuses and serve 2,500 scholars by 2020. We believe we can do it by sticking to the principles that have contributed to our success.
Ron Sadoff is the president and founder of Milwaukee College Prep School.