In its first two years, the M³ (pronounced M-cubed) initiative – which brings together Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – has helped increase the MPS graduation rate and the percentage of MPS grads going on to college.

In releasing results at a two-year impact update on January 9, leaders at the three institutions committed to accelerating the progress and to moving the needle in one area that has not yet seen growth: the one-year retention percentage for MPS graduates who attend either MATC or UWM.

More than 130,000 students are collectively served by MPS, MATC and UWM. In January 2017, the organizations publicly announced M³, a collaborative effort to create a better K-through-16 educational system, one that will feed the region’s growing need for college-educated employees.

Through M³, educators across Milwaukee’s three largest public education institutions work in teams to smooth transitions between the institutions and implement programs that benefit the entire student population. Curricula and instructional approaches in math, science and reading are being aligned throughout the three institutions. Research and resources are being shared, with an eye toward accelerating student progress from middle school to high school and on into college.

At the impact update held at MATC’s Downtown Milwaukee Campus, M³ leaders shared the early results with legislators, businesspeople, families, faculty and staff. MPS Superintendent Keith Posley, MATC President Vicki Martin and UWM Chancellor Mark Mone reiterated their resource investments and invited feedback about how to accelerate M³ progress.

“Education is power,” Dr. Posley said Wednesday. “We’re combining these three institutions together … This is transformational work.”

Success is being tracked through key metrics. That includes the MPS four-year graduation rate, which rose from 58.2 percent for the class of 2015 to 62.2 percent for the class of 2017. Final 2018 numbers are expected to rise another few percentage points. M³ has also helped increase the percentage of MPS graduates entering college within one year from 44.2 percent for the class of 2015 to 46.2 percent for the class of 2017. The initiative boosted the percentage of MPS students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) from 60.8 percent in 2016 to 74.6 percent by 2018.

Higher targets for all figures have been established for 2019-20, and leaders outlined specific steps to help more MPS students succeed when they enter college. Sixty-five percent of MPS students continue after one year at UWM and 44 percent continue after one year at MATC.

“We will not rest until our students are successful at the level they deserve and our community needs,” Dr. Martin said Wednesday.

Additional M³ efforts include combined professional development sessions for MPS, MATC and UWM faculty members. Trips to UWM and MATC campuses connect MPS students with educational avenues aligned with their career interests. Job fairs have introduced students to area employers and Parent Institute programs ensure parents have the tools to navigate their children’s path to college.

In addressing the audience at the update event, Dr. Mone called working in public education “a calling. That is the spirit most of us work in … how important it is to transform lives and create opportunities for individuals.”

He added that he is proud of the work that has been done, “but we have much more work in front of us.”

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Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) via Twitter