School districts across Wisconsin largely held steady academically last year, according to statewide report cards the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released Tuesday. But the pandemic continues to cloud the measurements.
Of the 377 districts that received the annual report cards, 95% rated at least three stars, meaning they met or exceeded expectations in 2021-22. The same percentage of school districts scored that high on the previous year’s report cards.
All Dane County school districts met or exceeded expectations in 2021-22.
Report cards are an annual measurement of how school districts and individual schools are performing and one way DPI measures educational success, DPI spokesperson Abigail Swetz said. They have helped shape the agency’s latest budget requests, which include an increase to per-pupil funding, increase in the reimbursement rate for special education, additional mental health support in schools and universal school meals.
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“That’s where we think the improvement can really be made, and that’s where we think we can keep moving the needle to try and make sure our students are getting what they need and able to achieve in the way we know they can,” Swetz said.
The report cards are based on student achievement, academic growth, improvement among academically struggling students and whether students are on track to graduate.
They’re based on a 100-point scale and are weighted for factors including a district’s poverty rate.
There are five rankings. Five-star schools significantly exceed expectations, while schools earning one star failed to meet expectations.
Meeting expectations in Dane County
All 16 school districts completely or mostly in Dane County met or exceeded expectations, an improvement from the previous year.
The Marshall School District made big strides in boosting its rating above three stars after being the only district in the county to not meet all of its expectations last year.
The district’s score improved from 54 last year, or a two-star “meets few expectations” rating, to 63 this year.
“The district and school report cards are improving thanks to the dedication, hard work and talents by our amazing scholars and staff,” Superintendent Dan Grady said.
Those improvements are in part due to a new literacy and math curriculum, as well as a new system of support for students, Grady said.
The Waunakee School District maintained the highest-scoring report card in the county, though its score dropped slightly this year from 83 to 80.7, which knocked it from its five-star rating.
“It is nice when you are seeing the highest score in the county, and I think that reflects really to the hard work of our students and the exceptional professionalism and efforts of our teachers and really all of our staff,” Waunakee Director of Communication and Instruction Tim Schell said.
But the drop in the district’s score still indicates room for improvement, he said, and is an example of the impact the pandemic has had on students.
“We had individual students and we had groups of students that had greater need for support even before the pandemic. And the pandemic exacerbated that,” he said, noting the district has focused particularly on outcomes for economically disadvantaged students.
The dip in scores for the district means “we really need to continue to focus on our improvement efforts,” Schell said. That includes updated elementary reading curriculum.
The Madison School District saw its score fall from 70.2 in 2020-21 to 67.5 in 2021-22, dropping it from “exceeds expectations” to “meets expectations.”
The district’s Capital High School had the lowest individual school report card in the county at 19.2, which means the school has failed to meet expectations. The newer alternative high school’s overall score was hurt by low scores on student achievement and chronic absenteeism, according to Capital High’s report card. The school similarly had a score of 19.4 in 2020-21 but didn’t have any scored report cards prior to the pandemic.
The next-lowest score in the county was 47.7, at Madison’s Black Hawk Middle School.
Overall, nine Dane County school districts saw scores drop, while the other seven improved, though most of the differences were small.
Changes and controversy
This is the second year DPI has released report cards since the pandemic disrupted learning in 2019-20, when no report cards were released. Because of the pandemic, the scores should be interpreted cautiously, DPI said, although lately the report cards have been catapulted into political discourse.
Republican lawmakers pushed back on changes to report card scoring metrics DPI made after the start of the pandemic. Some accused the agency of purposefully inflating scores last year, though DPI has denied any bias in making the changes.
Last spring, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers blocked a GOP bill that would have required the state to revert back to pre-pandemic metrics.
In addition to lowering the range of scores associated with the five rankings — a “meets expectation” score range was moved from 63-72.9 to 58-69.9, for example — the state also changed one of its metrics.
DPI started separately measuring outcomes for the lowest-achieving students in 2020-21 instead of measuring how schools were closing achievement gaps. This new metric focuses on a single, targeted group of students who are performing at the lowest levels. The change is designed to better focus on students with low test scores and to avoid big fluctuations in numbers from year to year.
“We believe that’s a more stable and simple measure, and just a more useful tool for schools and districts to identify where they are in terms of those lowest performers in the school, and to help the school continue to improve,” said Sam Bohrod, assistant director of DPI’s Office of Educational Accountability.
Across the state
In total, 269 school districts experienced no change from their 2020-21 scores, while 24 scored higher and 84 scored lower.
DPI also gives report cards for individual schools in the state. There were 1,920 public schools that were able to be scored, and 1,619, or 84%, met or exceeded expectations. Some schools are unable to be scored because there isn’t enough available data. According to DPI, 184 public schools, or 9%, were unable to be scored, and 228 private schools, or 58%, were unable to be scored.
There were 1,883 public schools that received report cards for both 2021-22 and 2020-21, and of those, 1,226 experienced no change in scores, while 231 moved up at least one rating category and 426 moved down at least one category.
Additionally, there were 163 private schools that were scored in 2021-22. Of those, 142 either met or exceeded expectations.
State report cards use up to three years of data to assess districts and schools. For this latest round of report cards, DPI used data from 2021-22, 2020-21 and 2018-19, skipping the peak pandemic year when no report cards were produced.
How Dane County schools rated
|Koshkonong Trails School||AR|
|Eagle Point Elementary||72.5|
|Badger Rock Middle||65.3|
|Black Hawk Middle||47.7|
|Cherokee Heights Middle||70.1|
|La Follette High||70.4|
|Lake View Elementary||67|
|Orchard Ridge Elementary||77.5|
|Shabazz City High||AR|
|Shorewood Hills Elementary||94.5|
|Spring Harbor Middle||59.9|
|Van Hise Elementary||96.7|
|JEDI Virtual K-12||70.6|
|Marshall Early Learning Center||AR|
|Conrad Elvehjem Primary School||AR|
|Destinatinos Career Academy of Wisconsin High||60|
|Indian Mound Middle||75.3|
|Insight School of Wisconsin High||AR|
|Wisconsin Virtual Academy High (WIVA)||51.3|
|Wisconsin Virtual Academy K-8 (WIVA)||56.6|
|Clark Street Community School||61.8|
|Elm Lawn Elementary||90.6|
|Glacier Creek Middle||77.7|
|Pope Farm Elementary||91.3|
|Sauk Trail Elementary||72.9|
|Sunset Ridge Elementary||86.4|
|West Middleton Elementary||83.4|
|Cottage Grove Elementary||AR|
|Glacial Drumlin School||64.5|
|Monona Grove High||71.4|
|Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School||56|
|Granite Ridge School||AR|
|Mount Horeb High||69.4|
|Mount Horeb Intermediate||80.8|
|Mount Horeb Middle||74|
|Mount Horeb Primary Center||AR|
|Forest Edge Elementary||81.5|
|Netherwood Knoll Elementary||80.3|
|Prairie View Elementary||82.7|
|Rome Corners Intermediate||76.1|
|Fox Prairie Elementary||81.6|
|River Bluff Middle||59.2|
|C H Bird Elementary||48.9|
|Cardinal Heights Upper Middle||59.1|
|Meadow View Elementary||70.2|
|Patrick Marsh Middle||63|
|Prairie Phoenix Academy||AR|
|Prairie View Middle||63|
|Royal Oaks Elementary||77.5|
|Sun Prairie High||77.6|
|Token Springs Elementary||88.1|
|Badger Ridge Middle||55.2|
|Core Knowledge Charter School||80.6|
|Country View Elementary||77.6|
|Glacier Edge Elementary||80.4|
|New Century School||85.2|
|Savanna Oaks Middle||68.4|
|Stoner Prairie Elementary||71.6|
|Sugar Creek Elementary||72.9|
|Verona Area High||82.4|
|Verona Area International School||89.2|
|Waunakee Heritage Elementary||79.6|
|Waunakee Prairie Elementary||85.9|
|Black Earth Elementary||AR|
|Wisconsin Heights High||85.4|
|Wisconsin Heights Middle||71.9|