Early returns promising for key UWM education partnership M-cubed

The early returns are promising for M3, an education initiative involving UWM aimed at improving student achievement and closing the equity gap in Milwaukee.

Enrollment is growing in the M3 Early College program, which is designed to give Milwaukee Public Schools students a taste of higher education through classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College and UWM. Graduation rates are rising at MPS.

UWM, MATC and MPS make up the M3 (pronounced M-cubed) partnership, who combined serve more than 130,000 students.

There is more to be done after positive steps forward in 2018-19, UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said.

“This is important, but it’s not just the binary” of whether or not a student graduated, Mone said at his fall plenary address. “It’s the qualitative aspects of (if) they are more prepared and ready for college.”

The initiative reached a major milestone with the graduation of the first MEarly College program class in May. The 32 MPS students in that class earned 10 college credits over the Spring 2019 semester by taking courses at MATC and UWM.

Early College has doubled in size this fall, with more than 60 students now taking 19 college credits over the course of the academic year.

“It’s a huge head start,” Mone said.

The Parent Institute, another M3 program, has expanded this year from parents of ninth- and 10th-grade students to those with children in MPS middle schools. The program supports parents as advocates for children’s academic success and increases awareness of programs and services available at each of the M3partners. The Parent Institute also provides information about postsecondary options and entrance requirements.

Other uplifting signs cited by Mleaders:

Four-year MPS high school completion rate: 66.7% for 2017-18, the last certified figure, up from 59.7% in 2015-16. The target for 2020 is 72%.

FAFSA (federal financial aid form) completion rate by MPS seniors: 70.1% as of July 31, on track to meet or exceed 2018 year-end total of 74.6% through Sept. 30, 2018. The target for 2020 is 80%.

Encouraged by the growth, leaders and stakeholders from all three institutions gathered over the summer to exchange new ideas. New goals are under consideration that would measure progress well beyond 2020 and include postsecondary achievement.

“The start of the new academic year offers an opportunity to show the progress that M3 has made in forging a true public education network in Milwaukee,” Mone said. “It also provides a moment to reinforce our collective commitment to the partnership as we look to build upon a solid foundation.”

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