BELOIT, Wis. — Our students are falling behind in staggering numbers. In our Two Americas report, we spotlight two districts in southern Wisconsin: The largest and most diverse, Milwaukee Public Schools, and medium-sized and also very diverse School District of Beloit.
Beloit's proficiency rate in math is minuscule, and the school's superintendent knows it. "We can't hide from the numbers," says Dan Keyser.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, during the last school year, just 6.3 percent of the entire School District of Beloit was proficient or above in math. That is more than five times lower than the statewide average, which is 33.6 percent.
Superintendent Keyser says one program that helped many students get back on track this school year was their summer math and science boot camp program. "While we are the most diverse school district in Rock County, it doesn't mean that we have all the answers," Keyser said.
Beloit is not the only district with meager scores. Just 4.2 percent of all Milwaukee Public School students were proficient in math last school year. That's more than seven times lower than our state's average of 33.6 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Non-profit Milkyway Tech Hub's founder Nadiyah Johnson took notice. "I started to see folks shape that narrative, that 'Milwaukee is a tech hub,' and while that's great, I didn't see a lot of folks that looked like me, and that's a problem," said Johnson.
Johnson found successful Black entrepreneurs and engineers like Eron Missick to teach after-school programs, including at Messmer Preparatory School in Milwaukee.
He is teaching the students how to program and light the Hoan Bridge, which they will actually do themselves in a few weeks.
"It's important for young people of color to see people like them in successful environments, so that it can be normalized within our communities," said Missick.
It's something that Beloit's superintendent hopes to implement in their own way as well. "We know students who see teachers who look like them come to a classroom in a different way. We're not there yet, but we're striving towards that," said Keyser.
This all may show after about two years of virtual learning, it is going to take a village to ensure our next generation's success.
We also looked at the proficiency rates in English. In Milwaukee, 7.3 percent of all students are proficient in English. In Beloit, it is 10 percent. The overall statewide average meanwhile is 33.7 percent.