Emily Files

Education Reporter

Emily became WUWM’s Education Reporter in August 2018 after spending four years in small-town Alaska.

She began as a reporter for KRBD in Ketchikan, where she once covered a bear interrupting a high school cross country race. She then worked as a reporter and eventually news director at KHNS Radio in Haines, where she reported on a man in a bear costume harassing actual bears. Aside from the occasional bear story, Emily covered the local politics, tribal issues, hunting, fishing and, of course, education.

Emily is originally from the Chicago area. She studied journalism at Emerson College in Boston, where she reported her very first radio stories for college station WERS. She interned at NPR’s Weekend Edition, The Boston Globe and PRI’s The World. Emily’s work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition, Marketplace, NPR’s Only a Game, and The World.

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Emily Files

The small southeastern Wisconsin school district of Palmyra-Eagle will not dissolve, despite serious financial problems. A state-appointed board made the decision at a meeting Thursday.

Palmyra-Eagle, which spans rural parts of Waukesha and Jefferson counties, would have been the first school district to dissolve under Wisconsin’s current funding system. But on Thursday night, that was averted — for now.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr

When you look at a map of Wisconsin, it’s covered in names that remind us of this country’s original inhabitants. Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Waukesha, Kinnickinnic — all words derived from Native American languages.

Another is Oconomowoc, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee. This week’s Bubbler Talk questioner, Jeff Dittel, moved there about two and a half years ago.

Emily Files / WUWM

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re looking back at some of Wisconsin’s most important education stories of the year – many of which will continue to play out in 2020.

The year started on a high note for public school advocates, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers taking office. Evers spent his career in education, eventually becoming Wisconsin’s superintendent of schools, and then ousting Republican incumbent Scott Walker for the governor’s seat in the November 2018 election.

Emily Files

In April, Milwaukee Public Schools will ask voters to approve a property tax referendum for the first time in 26 years.

The school board decided Thursday night to ask for $87 million in additional revenue. This would allow the district to exceed state-imposed property tax caps.

READ: MPS To Consider Referendum For Educational Programming

Emily Files

Raising money through voter referendums has become a common tool for school districts across Wisconsin because the state restricts their taxing authority. And now the state’s largest district, Milwaukee Public Schools, plans to follow suit.

The last time MPS attempted to raise taxes through a referendum, voters shot it down. That was in 1993 and leaders were seeking $366 million for building projects. Now, more than 25 years later, the district plans to try again on the April 2020 ballot.

Emily Files / WUWM

As part of our Beats Me series, we spotlighted Milwaukee Public Schools parent coordinators, who are tasked with the on-the-ground work of connecting families and schools. But that mission extends beyond a single person in each building.

Emily Files / WUWM

Tjuna Eggson has worked in Milwaukee Public Schools for more than 20 years. Twelve of those years, she’s had the title of ‘parent coordinator.’ "One of the things that I found out is the position is really underrated," Eggson says.

Emily Files

This week, a new collaboration between two UW-Milwaukee programs is taking the stage. Students in UWM's unique American Sign Language program are providing live interpretation at a UWM student theater production — a first for the school.

Courtesy of The Waukesha Freeman

Updated Tuesday at 4:17 p.m. CT

A 17-year-old Waukesha South High School student was shot by a police officer on Monday morning after allegedly aiming a pellet gun at police. 

Emily Files

The nearly-broke Palmyra-Eagle School District in southeastern Wisconsin could be the first in the state to dissolve under current funding structures.

That worries the surrounding school districts. At a recent public hearing, some of Palmyra-Eagle’s neighbors warned the dissolution could create a domino effect — leading other school districts to collapse.

Emily Files

Milwaukee Public Schools is gradually improving on state report cards that measure school districts' overall success.

The report card for the 2018-19 school year, shows that even though MPS struggles with test scores, it's getting better at closing achievement gaps and advancing student growth. But the district is still one of the lowest-ranking in Wisconsin.

Emily Files

This week, Milwaukee Public Schools formed a new community task force that will guide the district's decision on a potential spring tax referendum.

The task force will recommend priorities that a voter referendum could support, like small class sizes or increasing the number of school counselors. But the MPS Board has already charged forward with new multimillion-dollar commitments that may strain the district’s budget.

Emily Files

An advisory referendum on whether the rural Palmyra-Eagle Area School District should dissolve shows how divided the community is on the issue – and the dramatic difference in opinion between the towns of Palmyra and Eagle.

More than 2,000 residents voted in the election. According to unofficial results, 53% cast ballots in favor of the district shuttering its doors. In the town and village of Palmyra, 73% of voters were against the district dissolving. In the town and village of Eagle, 74% supported dissolution.

Courtesy of MATC

Just 30% of adults in the city of Milwaukee have a college degree. About 22% completed some college, but didn’t graduate. Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) is bolstering its outreach to those adults, who might be interested in giving college another shot.

Courtesy UW System

The University of Wisconsin System will soon be searching for a new leader. President Ray Cross announced his retirement Friday after five years on the job and more than 40 years in higher education.  

Cross, 71, will stay on as president until the Board of Regents hires a successor.

Alesandra Tejeda

Updated on Oct. 31 at 1:28 p.m. CT

A criminal case is proceeding against Riverside University High School student Eddie Seaberry, 20, who was charged with one count of making terrorist threats.

The criminal complaint against him describes the Facebook post that led to Seaberry's arrest, in which he is allegedly holding a BB gun and threatens to kill people who called him dumb. The police received calls about the post from the Riverside principal and parents of students.

There's a scene in the movie Mean Girls where new student Cady Heron gets a lesson from her friend, Janice Ian, about the social hierarchy of the high school cafeteria.

"Where you sit in the cafeteria is crucial," Janice says. She then maps out the cliques, including preps, jocks and, of course, the "plastics."

The scene is an exaggeration of a common experience: the stress of finding your place in a school cafeteria. But Wisconsin resident Smitha Chintamaneni can't relate.

Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In his new book, The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, education writer Paul Tough dismantles the myth of college as a pure meritocracy. Instead, he makes the case that the U.S. higher education system reinforces class and racial inequalities.

Research shows that a college degree, especially from an elite institution, increases one's chances of social mobility. But the people who could most benefit — low-income, first-generation, and black and Hispanic students — often don’t get those opportunities.

Emily Files

Over the next few months, Milwaukee residents washing clothes at laundromats will start to see something different: mini libraries.

A new city office focused on early childhood education is installing reading nooks in places where children tend to have downtime. The goal is to meet families where they are to encourage early literacy.

The first laundromat to participate in the initiative is Riverworks Coin Laundry, on Holton Street in Riverwest.

Emily Files / WUWM

In most Wisconsin school districts, 4-year-olds can attend kindergarten. But the programs are usually for just part of the day. State legislators are now considering two bills that could expand full-day kindergarten options for children under 5.

Emily Files / WUWM

One of President Trump’s most controversial Cabinet members visited Milwaukee Monday to celebrate and call for the expansion of school choice. It was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ first stop on her back-to-school tour promoting "education freedom."

DeVos spent a few hours at St. Marcus Lutheran School, a private voucher school in the Brewer's Hill neighborhood. She toured classrooms, talked to students, and held a roundtable discussion that included like-minded state lawmakers.

carlycassano / Flickr

Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are a growing concern for college students. Demand for counseling services at University of Wisconsin campuses has increased by more than 50% since 2010. According to the World Health Organization, most lifetime mental disorders manifest before the age of 24. 

Emily Files / WUWM

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released standardized test results for public school students Thursday, and there’s not much to celebrate.

Students’ mastery of both English language arts and math declined compared to the previous year, with just about 40% of students proficient in each. Students were making progress in math previously, but that trend did not continue this year. English results have declined for a couple years.

Emily Files / WUWM

This spring, Milwaukee Public School leaders agreed to reinstate employee salary schedules, which provide workers with predictable raises based on experience and education level.

It’s a compensation system that MPS eliminated after Act 10 deprived unions of most bargaining powers. Now, the district is reversing course with the goal of stabilizing its workforce.

Emily Files

Students at Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts in Bay View were welcomed with a red carpet and drumline Tuesday morning at Milwaukee Public Schools' back-to-school celebration. 

MPS’s approximately 76,000 students are back in classrooms this week. They might not know it, but there’s a new team of leaders making decisions that will affect them at the local and state level.

Emily Files

The MPS Board is expected to consider a proposal this fall that would raise minimum music requirements for schools. The proposal is the culmination of a year-long effort by teachers to increase student access to music education. 

On a recent morning, Ronald Reagan High School teacher Erica Breitbarth was leading her chamber choir students in a rehearsal of Edward Elgar’s 'As Torrents in Summer.'

Emily Files / WUWM

Do you have ideas about how to improve Milwaukee Public Schools? District leaders want to hear them.

MPS is asking residents to take an online survey and attend public listening sessions about what it takes to create ideal schools.  

Emily Files

Several states have taken steps to make college more affordable by creating free-tuition "promise" programs. Each one is different, but in general, they allow students to attend community college, or sometimes public universities, for free.

Emily Files

Wisconsin has some of the most pronounced education gaps between black and white students. In 2012, a group of suburban Milwaukee school districts, along with Concordia University in Mequon, launched a collaboration to address those racial disparities — the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium.

Emily Files

In his first months as superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, Keith Posley announced an ambitious goal: that MPS math, reading and writing scores would surpass the state average within five years.

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