The curriculum in Milwaukee Public Schools is based on the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.
The standards are formed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.
These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:
- Are aligned with college and work expectations;
- Are clear, understandable and consistent;
- Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
- Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
- Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
- Are evidence-based.
At Brown Street, reading blocks are implemented as part of the curriculum. The Houghton Mifflin Reading Series is used along with trade books in K5-5th grade, while Doors to Discovery is used in K4. Brown Street’s Literacy Coach supports teachers with literacy education by mentoring, modeling and supporting classroom instruction. Integrated theme tests, reading incentive programs, intervention programs and daily self-selected silent reading help students develop strategic reading and comprehension skills. The Accelerated Reader program is used in conjunction with weekly library visits, allowing students to use computer software to improve their individual skills. Educational assistants support classroom teachers by working with students in small flexible groups.
During daily writing blocks, students use Writer’s Workshop to improve their writing and Language Arts skills. Bi-monthly Drop Everything and Write (D.E.W.) exercises provide ongoing, on-demand writing practice. At Brown Street, students learn how to express themselves using spoken and written language. They also identify media messages and learn research skills. By creating a variety of writing selections and using correct grammar and spelling, students develop into independent, confident writers. Feedback is provided from teachers as well as peers. During their time at Brown Street Academy, students learn to write a well-organized research paper, complete with details, effective word choice and correct sentence structure. Through presentations, they practice communicating their ideas clearly.
Brown Street’s Mathematics program uses the McGraw-Hill preschool curriculum at the K4 level and the Scott Foresman Math Series in K5-5th Grade. A Math Teacher Leader is available to support classroom teachers in the area of Mathematics. The curriculum includes computation, problem solving and technology. Classroom math instruction includes cooperative group work, real life experiences, journaling, whole class instruction, modeling and making connections between home and school. Calculators and software are used to generate graphs and charts. Students learn various math processes, from addition and subtraction to the application of mathematical data, to solve problems and predict outcomes. The concepts of geometry and algebra are also introduced. Family training sessions at Brown Street have a Mathematics/Science focus.
At Brown Street, students receive instruction in Geography, History, Civics, Economics and Behavioral Sciences. They learn to use maps, historical artifacts, documents and photographs to make observations and connect historical events. In addition, students discuss the diversity of neighborhoods and cultures as well as the interdependency of communities. In order to gain a local perspective, students spend time studying the community of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin. United States geography and history are also covered, requiring students to create a timeline of historical events and changes in the growth of the nation.
Simple investigations, discussions about the process of scientific discovery and observations of the world help Brown Street students build a strong background in science. Teachers encourage children to ask and answer questions using scientific methods and new vocabulary. Students learn to connect scientists from different backgrounds with scientific topics relating to their studies. They also gain a deeper understanding of scientific principles through hands-on, interactive experiments performed under the supervision of classroom teachers. During their time at Brown Street, students learn basic facts that will provide the basis for in-depth study of particular areas of science in future years.
Brown Street students increase their understanding of music as they learn to evaluate and appreciate musical performances. Students learn to read basic music and explore different instruments as they study rhythm, melody and harmony. By listening to and identifying different musical styles, students are introduced to instrumental ensembles.
Art, Physical Education and Health
Seeing as though art education is as essential to the basic education of all children as Reading, Writing and Mathematics, Brown Street teachers incorporate art lessons and activities into the regular curriculum. Through art, students express themselves and practice creative problem solving. Teachers also encourage students to develop interests in physical activity and to play games together during recess. This teaches cooperation, sportsmanship, listening skills and the ability to follow directions. By discussing the importance of healthy nutrition and exercise, teachers encourage students to make smart decisions on a daily basis. Students connect their own actions and health habits with others in the community, identifying steps they can take to live healthier lifestyles.