A product of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and its universities’ STEAM-based departments, the Milwaukee Visions Academy (MVA) would be a non-academic, nonprofit STEAM academy for gifted students from Milwaukee’s low-income neighborhoods, where housing and meals are included, making it easier for students to focus on their project-based learning.
The 300-student academy would be populated by individuals that are recommended by their schools’ teachers and/or guidance counselors. Only those students who have shown a great deal of promise and rigor in their studies would be allowed to join the MVA. Students from Milwaukee Public Schools middle schools and high school freshmen would be allotted placements, with students going into their sophomore years being considered on a limited basis.
A formula would be created to calculate population equity of enrollment from all public middle and high schools in MPS in order to prevent a handful of schools from becoming the main feeders.
Local, state, and/or federal academic standards would be ignored, focusing all attention on the students’ learning and need for exploration. Additionally, great importance would be placed on teaching history based on students’ racial and ethnic makeup because of the importance of identity and vision and the passion they create when they meet.
Despite not adhering to local, state, and federal academic standards, a portion of the teaching would be focused on material that would help students acquire their GED. A high school diploma would not be necessary, as they would be placed in a STEAM pipeline that would guarantee them a place in one of the partner universities.
Most teaching would involve hands-on, project-based learning in software engineering, robotics, physics, electronics, and design. All teachers would be well-compensated engineers, physicists, and designers whose salaries would be paid for using dollars from the partner institutions, sponsoring businesses, and government grants.
The MVA board would be composed of people selected by each university’s department (UWM, Marquette, MSOE, MATC), six randomly chosen members from a pool of qualified volunteers that live in the city of Milwaukee, two students from the academy, and two representing the faculty.
The academy would serve as a model for creating a natural feeder of local talent into the city’s universities. After its first five years providing positive results, the academy would open three more locations to better serve students across the city.
One of the top goals for the creation of the MVA would be to rigorously prepare underserved students in order to bring their perspectives and creativity into the technology arena. Another major goal would be to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the student body of the universities’ STEAM-based departments. If successful, this would lead to greater diversification of local companies’ tech teams and leadership.
This column is part of “25 big ideas for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin’s future,” a feature included in the BizTimes Milwaukee 25th anniversary issue. To read other contributions, visit biztimes.com/bigideas