MMSD testing anti-racist microschool

MADISON, Wis. — One teacher.  Four Students.  That’s a ratio you just don’t see in public education.  It’s a microschool concept that the Madison Metropolitan School District is hoping makes a big impact on its 27,000 students and 52 schools.

Once again, district officials are putting race at the forefront.  The Anti-Racist Learning Laboratory + Innovation Network (ALL+IN Microschool) is a pilot program that recruits “Black, Indigenous, Latinx and/or Asian/Asian American” middle schoolers who feel like school isn’t for them and want a say in what they learn.

“They teach us about racial profiling and basically racial discrimination and all that stuff,” says students Nykong Riek.  “I’ve learned about how black people are mostly the target of racial profiling,” she says.

The district is using federal COVID relief funding to pay for the program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted racially minoritized communities in Madison and around the country, resulting in a differential impact on the educational lives of youth from these communities,” says district spokesperson Tim LeMonds.

All In Graphic

“It’s for anti-racist learning that centers around the students a lot, (and) their interest (and) their voices,” says ALL+IN teacher Bianca Baker.

Focusing on students of color has become a priority for MMSD since receiving feedback from a student survey.

“They were saying they weren’t represented in schools in terms of their cultures, not respected, valued. the most upsetting to me was they didn’t feel like it was a place they could learn,” says Maxine McKinney De Royston, the program’s co-creator.

McKinney De Royston is a published researcher on race in education and an assistant professor at UW-Madison.

“I believe that kids should go to school to be safe and have a sense of belonging but also they should learn,” she says.

At the microschool instead of traditional math or science classes different subjects are blended into activities.  Students will cook a meal and along with learning how to cook, they’re using math when figuring out measurements for various serving sizes and learning about the culture that’s associated with the dish.

“It’s like learning in a fun way, you know it’s not like boring old homework that you have to do when you get home,” says Reik.

The ALL+IN microschool needs approval to continue next school year.