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All 16 Dane County school districts earned three or more stars on the state’s 2015-16 report cards, meaning they met or exceeded expectations for educating children.

The top county score went to Waunakee, the only one of the 16 to earn all five stars. That placed it in the top category: “significantly exceeds expectations.” Only 53 other districts in the state out of 424 earned that highest honor.

This is the first year the report cards used a five-star rating system. The stars correspond to one of five categories: “fails to meet expectations,” “meets few expectations,” “meets expectations,” “exceeds expectations” and “significantly exceeds expectations.”

The Madison School District earned three stars. Its score, the lowest of the 16 county districts, placed it in the middle of the “meets expectations” category.

The report cards were released Thursday by the state Department of Public Instruction. In addition to each district getting a score, individual schools were rated.

School-level results in Madison were mixed. Two schools — Van Hise and Shorewood Hills elementary schools — significantly exceeded expectations. Twelve schools exceeded expectations, 16 met expectations and 11 met few expectations. Four failed to meet expectations: La Follette High School, Cherokee Middle School, Sandburg Elementary School, and Badger Rock Middle School.

No other county schools landed in the bottom category. At this point, there are no specific state consequences associated with the lowest rating.

Andrew Statz, Madison’s chief accountability officer, said the report card data will be taken into consideration when crafting the district’s annual improvement plans for each school.

Schools and districts receive a score on a scale of 0 to 100 based on student reading and math test scores and growth, closing of achievement gaps between student subgroups, and various measurements of post-secondary readiness. Deductions can be made based on test participation, absenteeism and dropout rates.

Major changes

This is a “reset” year for the school accountability measure. No report cards were issued last year due to upheaval in the state’s standardized testing program, and major changes ordered by the state Legislature render comparisons to prior years invalid, according to DPI.

For the first time, the report cards take into account a school’s poverty rate, a response to criticism that test scores alone don’t tell a full story. Prior report card results, critics said, were largely predictable based simply on concentrations of low-income students.

Using a complex weighting formula, schools with high poverty rates now fare better than in prior years if they demonstrate growth in educating low-income students. Generally, the higher the proportion of low-income students, the greater the weight assigned to student growth, as opposed to straightforward achievement.

“It’s a truer depiction of how things are going at a school,” Statz said. “It gives credit to schools that are moving low-income students in the right direction.”

The new measure can result in surprises, perhaps shaking up community perceptions. In some cases, schools that typically would not fare so well based solely on test scores leapfrogged over schools with more elevated reputations. It’s a strong argument for understanding the nuances of a school’s student population when looking at the report card scores, DPI officials said.

Further clouding the picture, especially in Madison, is the punitive nature of the test participation component.

The goal for test participation on the state’s standardized tests remains 100 percent for all students and for each subgroup with at least 20 students. The report cards include two test participation calculations: one is based only on current-year test participation data and the other is based on up to three years of data.

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Schools that fall below a 95 percent test participation rate for all students or for any subgroup for both the current-year and three-year rate receive a five-point deduction from their overall score.

Schools that fall below an 85 percent test participation rate for all students or for any subgroup for both the current-year and three-year rate receive a 10-point deduction.

‘Big deductions’

This had major ramifications in Madison, which has had high parent opt-out rates the past two years. Some parents have said they philosophically oppose the amount of time spent on testing, while others have taken issue with the instability of the state’s testing program. The state has administered three different tests the past three years.

During the 2013-14 school year in Madison, only 0.2 percent of students opted out of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. The next year, the number surged to about 7 percent when the state administered the Badger Exam for the first and only time. Last spring, about 4 percent of district students opted out of the new Forward Exam.

On the newly issued report cards, 24 of 45 schools in Madison were docked points due to low test participation. Eighteen lost five points, while six lost the full 10 points.

For 12 schools, that meant getting knocked down an entire category. Here’s one example: Lowell Elementary, a generally well-regarded school, would have scored solidly in the “meets expectations” category but lost five points due to low test participation and landed in the “meets few expectations” category.

Two subgroups at Lowell — white students and students with disabilities — were below the 95 percent test participation threshold on both the one- and three-year measures and in both English and math.

Of the four Madison schools that landed in the bottom category, three — La Follette High School, Cherokee Middle School and Sandburg Elementary School — would not be there except for the test participation deductions.

Although absenteeism also plays a role in the formula, Statz said the deductions for test participation across the district were “driven largely” by opt-outs.

“These are really big deductions with high stakes,” Statz said. “We support families and their right to choose, and it’s on us to explain the benefits of assessments.”

Statewide results

Across the state, more than 82 percent of public schools and 91 percent of districts earned three or more stars.

This was the first year that schools in the state’s three private-school voucher programs began submitting data to DPI using a new data collection system. But the schools did not get scores or ratings because report cards require more than one year of data.

Nearly 200 schools received an alternate rating — either “satisfactory progress” or “needs improvement” — rather than a number score because they are new, don’t have enough test-takers, serve exclusively at-risk students, or serve only grades kindergarten through second. Three Madison elementary schools — Franklin, Midvale and Lapham — fell into this category. All earned the “satisfactory progress” rating. Shabazz City High School, a Madison alternative school, also received the “satisfactory progress” rating.

A searchable database is available at dpi.wi.gov.

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How Dane County's schools rated

The Department of Public Instruction released a new set of report cards for public schools on Thursday. DPI made a number of changes to the scoring formula this year, which it says prevents making comparisons to prior years. Scoring system: Significantly Exceeds Expectations: 83-100 Exceeds Expectations: 73-82.9 Meets Expectations: 63-72.9 Meets Few Expectations: 53-62.9 Fails to Meet Expectations: 0-52.9

School Overall Accountability Score
BELLEVILLE 76.4
• Belleville Elementary AR*
• Belleville High 77
• Belleville Intermediate 79.6
• Belleville Middle 70.8
CAMBRIDGE 78.9
• Cambridge Elementary 87
• Cambridge High 79.1
• Nikolay Middle 73.7
DEERFIELD 73.8
• Deerfield Elementary 80.4
• Deerfield High 73
• Deerfield Middle 72.4
DeFOREST 75.7
• DeForest High 66.8
• DeForest Middle 77.1
• Eagle Point Elementary 78.8
• Windsor Elementary 76.7
• Yahara Elementary 75.1
MADISON 67.5
• Allis Elementary 68.5
• Badger Rock Middle 46.1
• Black Hawk Middle 71.2
• Cesar Chavez Elementary 74.1
• Cherokee Heights Middle 51
• Crestwood Elementary 61.9
• East High 54.7
• Elvehjem Elementary 73.5
• Emerson Elementary 69.4
• Falk Elementary 66.3
• Franklin Elementary AR*
• Glendale Elementary 65.1
• Gompers Elementary 58.8
• Hamilton Middle 73.7
• Hawthorne Elementary 74.2
• Huegel Elementary 72.3
• Innovative & Alternative High AR*
• Innovative & Alternative Middle AR*
• James Wright Middle 75
• Jefferson Middle 65.6
• Kennedy Elementary 63.3
• LaFollette High 51.6
• Lake View Elementary 53.1
• Lapham Elementary AR*
• Leopold Elementary 62.4
• Lincoln Elementary 59.4
• Lindbergh Elementary 79.2
• Lowell Elementary 62.4
• Marquette Elementary 68.9
• Memorial High 65.5
• Mendota Elementary 61.8
• Metro School AR*
• Midvale Elementary AR*
• Muir Elementary 77.5
• Nuestro Mundo 67
• O'Keeffe Middle 67.6
• Olson Elementary 74.6
• Orchard Ridge Elementary 75.6
• Randall Elementary 77.1
• Sandburg Elementary 50.1
• Schenk Elementary 67.6
• Sennett Middle 57.4
• Shabazz-City High AR*
• Sherman Middle 72.2
• Shorewood Hills Elementary 91.8
• Spring Harbor Middle 71.8
• Stephens Elementary 61.1
• Thoreau Elementary 75.2
• Toki Middle 55.2
• Van Hise Elementary 96.8
• West High 78.5
• Whitehorse Middle 66.9
• MARSHALL 74.3
• Marshall Charter AR*
• Marshall Early Learning Center AR*
• Marshall Elementary 80.2
• Marshall High 68.8
• Marshall Middle 55
McFARLAND 80.3
• Indian Mound Middle 80.8
• McFarland High 84.8
• McFarland Primary School AR*
• Waubesa Intermediate School 86.1
• Wisconsin Virtual Academy High (WIVA) 30.3
• Wisconsin Virtual Academy K-8 (WIVA) 51
MIDDLETON-CROSS PLAINS 81.8
• 21st Century eSchool AR*
• Clark Street School AR*
• Elm Lawn Elementary 86.7
• Glacier Creek Middle 87.9
• Kromrey Middle 87.2
• Middleton High 80.7
• Northside Elementary 92.2
• Park Elementary 71.4
• Sauk Trail Elementary 81.2
• Sunset Ridge Elementary 93.8
• West Middleton Elementary 73.1
MONONA GROVE 74.6
• Cottage Grove Elementary 84.7
• Glacial Drumlin School 67.4
• Monona Grove High 75.7
• Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School for the 21st Century AR*
• Taylor Prairie Elementary AR*
• Winnequah School 85.3
MOUNT HOREB 77.4
• Mount Horeb High 76.8
• Mount Horeb Intermediate 83.5
• Mount Horeb Middle 68.7
• Mount Horeb Primary Center AR*
OREGON 77.2
• Brooklyn Elementary 83.7
• Netherwood Knoll Elementary 85.5
• Oregon High 72.9
• Oregon Middle 71.2
• Prairie View Elementary 81.2
• Rome Corners Intermediate School 71.5
STOUGHTON 72.6
• Fox Prairie Elementary 74.5
• Kegonsa Elementary 65
• River Bluff Middle 71
• Sandhill Elementary 84
• Stoughton High 74.5
SUN PRAIRIE 72.9
• Bird Elementary 71.1
• Cardinal Heights Upper Middle 67.9
• Creekside Elementary 69.9
• Eastside Elementary 69.5
• Horizon Elementary School 85.2
• Northside Elementary 71.3
• Patrick Marsh Middle 68.3
• Prairie Phoenix Academy AR*
• Prairie View Middle 66.7
• Royal Oaks Elementary 84.5
• Sun Prairie High 70.3
• Westside Elementary 65.9
VERONA 72.5
• Badger Ridge Middle School 62.3
• Core Knowledge Charter School 74.6
• Country View Elementary 73.6
• Exploration Academy AR*
• Glacier Edge Elementary School 79.2
• New Century School 79.6
• Savanna Oaks Middle 68.4
• Stoner Prairie Elementary 80.1
• Sugar Creek Elementary 71.9
• Verona High 68.7
• Verona International School 80.6
WAUNAKEE 85.1
• Arboretum Elementary School 95.8
• Waunakee Heritage Elementary 79.5
• Waunakee High 79
• Waunakee Intermediate 89.2
• Waunakee Middle 84.6
• Waunakee Prairie Elementary 81
WISCONSIN HEIGHTS 76.5
• Black Earth Elementary AR*
• Mazomanie Elementary 81.6
• Wisconsin Heights High 73.1
• Wisconsin Heights Middle 76.5
* Alternative rating