Showing Off REAL Success


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I had the pleasure of meeting many of the students of South Milwaukee’s REAL Academy on Friday during their open house. What an impressive group of kids — and what an impressive example of innovation in public education.

This is a South Milwaukee success story.

In its third year, the REAL (Rocket Education for Alternative Learning) Academy offers an option for kids who may have been left behind in many districts.

Kids meet for three hours a day and get a lot out of that time. As described by teacher Joanna Rizzotto …

The REAL Academy is an alternative learning environment that provides high need, at-risk and special education students equal access to education by addressing their barriers to success through a personalized educational program. The REAL Academy is a separate school within SMHS, resulting in a small classroom setting which allows for individual student attention and a strong community atmosphere. Everything we do is created around being a Productive Worker: Attendance & Punctuality, Organization, Task Completion, Taking Initiative, Enthusiasm, Self Esteem, and Self Management.

All of that was on display Friday, with the students serving as the storytellers. They spoke about the academy’s innovative learning model, its focus on teaching life skills, its community commitment, its successes.

More importantly, the students spoke about the impact the academy has had on their lives — and how it has put them on a path for a promising future that probably wouldn’t have existed but for this unique school within a school.

In a time when school districts across the state face funding crises and state lamwakers ponder taking even more money out of the broken education funding system, we should all keep efforts like the REAL Academy in mind.

I can’t think of a better investment in the future of South Milwaukee.

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