Milwaukee partnership aims to increase student retention and graduation rates

By Erin Eagan

There is a new education initiative in Milwaukee, appropriately called M3 or M-cubed, which is a partnership between Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — the three largest public educational institutions in southeastern Wisconsin. A collaboration that has been in the works for 18 months, the initiative was recently launched at an event on the MATC campus in downtown Milwaukee.  

At its core, “M3 seeks to transform the future of Milwaukee through education,” as written in its mission statement. More specifically, the initiative’s goals are to better position MPS students to meet the demands of college, educate families about the importance of post-secondary education and increase the expectation of learning after high school. The program sets out a pathway from secondary to higher education, making it easier for students to transition from the institutions, including high school enrollment in college course studies.

According to Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver, the four-year graduation rate in MPS is at 58.2 percent. Thirty-three percent of high school freshmen in Milwaukee don’t even make it to 10th grade. It’s alarming numbers like these that made this initiative all the more urgent. M³’s unique K-16 approach is geared towards children living in homes where they will be the first in their family to go to college and, for some, first to graduate high school.

“M³ is a game changer for our students, families and the community,” Driver said at the event. “Working together, we can change what secondary and post-secondary education looks like in our community, providing an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on our neighborhoods and our neighbors.”

MATC President Vicki Martin echoed that sentiment. “Our institutions serve more than 140,000 students annually and working together is paramount,” she said. “M³ supports our city’s and state’s economic vitality and will have a significant and lasting impact. We have got to get the message out to the families and to those young people in our communities to know that they can have a better life and it is through education.”

The program is funded by multiple sources, including in-kind support: staff time allocated to planning and executing its initiatives, plus facility use and admin support; each institution identifying an additional $30,000-$75,000; and external funding through grants and donations.