Schools of Hope

WI Reading Comprehensive Test

For generations, a racial achievement gap has existed locally. United Way and Schools of Hope partners are changing that.

Schools of Hope began in 1995 as a civic journalism project of the Wisconsin State Journal and WISC-TV that looked at critical issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District. A leadership team led by United Way of Dane County was convened to address the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers, which continued to grow despite millions of dollars and “good efforts” that had been tried over the past twenty years. This partnership, which included the Madison Metropolitan School District, Madison Teachers Inc, the Wisconsin State Journal, WISC-TV 3, University of Wisconsin, 100 Black Men, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, and local parents and youth, was able to ignite a community-wide effort to improve minority achievement.

Using community input, as well as hard data and research, the group determined to place volunteer tutors in school to work in concert with teachers. Volunteer coordinators were placed in the schools with the most students in need of reading assistance.

The achievement gap is a broad target, but by focusing on the specific goal of third grade reading, this partnership was able to make a significant change in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Between 1995 and 2005, the racial achievement gap for third grade reading went from 21 percent to 2 percent, and the number of third graders performing below standard was lowered for all races.

We are now taking the first steps to expand this success to all of Dane County by branching out to Sun Prairie. We are also using the same techniques to help students pass algebra by tenth grade and to ensure preschoolers are prepared to start school. The success of this partnership has proven that, together, we can create positive, lasting change in Dane County.

For more information about Schools of Hope, please contact Briony MacPhee at (608) 245-8072 or