Against the Wind: African Americans and the Schools in Milwaukee, 1963-2002

By Bill Dahlk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
NEW GUARD, REVISED AGENDA,
TWO CAMPS—1987–1990

As implemented [in Milwaukee], racial integration has: Failed as
a strategy for increasing academic achievement of black students
.
[And it has] [s]ubstituted a system of segregation by economic
class for one based on race
.

—George Mitchell, educational analyst, 19891


THE ROOTS OF A REVISED AGENDA

White flight, the failure to achieve extensive metropolitan school integration, and the end of the McMurrin superintendence brought not only a change in leadership but also the beginnings of a shift in reform strategies, starting in 1987. The emphasis on desegregation and specialty schools would be modified over the next fifteen years to a different agenda—one significantly shaped by a growing criticism of the MPS desegregation regime of the 1976-through-1986 years, by the impact of social and economic distress in the lives of MPS students, and by the national conversation about effective schools.

The departure of the McMurrin team—“a white boys’ club,” in the words of Jeanette Mitchell (school board member, 1986–94)—enabled a new guard of African American leaders (located both inside and outside of MPS) to strongly influence this agenda revision.2 As the goal of school integration lost its relevance, many of the insiders now focused on pedagogy at the school and classroom levels. Among the leading outsiders, educational nationalism was in ascendance and

1 George A. Mitchell, An Evaluation of State-Financed School Integration in Metropolitan Milwaukee (Milwaukee: Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, June 1989), 4.

2 Interview with Jeanette Mitchell.

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