DPI releases school report cards

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the third year of school report cards Tuesday.

Wisconsin’s schools and districts made modest gains in performance this past school year, according to report cards released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction.

The Madison School District was among a majority of the state’s 424 school districts that saw accountability scores improve from last year. Madison’s score still “meets expectations,” which is the middle of the state’s five-tier rating system.

Overall, four out of five schools and nearly all districts met or exceeded expectations. There were 116 schools that received the highest rating, up from 86 the previous year, and 66 that received the lowest rating, up from 58 the previous year.

Among districts, eight fell in the bottom two rating categories, down from 11 last year, and 168 achieved the highest two ratings, up from 143.

‘Solid education’

“Most of our public schools and school districts are providing a solid education to our children, but we don’t want to rest on our laurels,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in a statement.

“These report cards are a good communication device to focus discussion among parents, schools, and communities on how our schools and school districts are doing and how they can continue to improve,” Evers said.

The release marked the third year that the state has issued report cards for schools and the second year for districts. It’s also the last time the results will be based on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, which is being replaced this year by new computer-based tests students will take in the spring.

The report cards are the state’s accountability system for public schools that replaced a previous system required by the federal government under the No Child Left Behind law.

Based on scores

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 postsecondary readiness. Deductions can be made based on test participation, absenteeism and dropout rates.

The scores translate to one of five ratings: “fails to meet expectations,” “meets few expectations,” “meets expectations,” “exceeds expectations” and “significantly exceeds expectations.”

Average score rises

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The average score for all districts statewide was 72.1, up from 71.5 last year. That translates to a rating near the top of the “meets expectations” scale.

Madison also improved its overall score, from 68.5 to to 69.8. Its score remained among the bottom third of districts statewide, but moved up, from 11th to eighth, among 15 school districts located in cities. It also moved up one spot among Dane County districts from lowest score to second-lowest, ahead of Belleville.

Waunakee scored highest in Dane County and had the 12th-highest score in the state.

Milwaukee ‘fails’

Milwaukee Public Schools once again was the only district that received a “fails to meet expectations” rating.

No schools in Madison received the lowest rating, but eight received the second-lowest . That’s an improvement from 11 last year. Four Madison schools received the highest rating: Franklin, Shorewood Hills and Van Hise elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School. Van Hise had the highest score in Dane County and 13th-highest in the state.

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said she was pleased with the results, including that the district’s growth score was above the state average. Growth scores tend to correlate less with student poverty levels than the overall scores.

Time delay

Cheatham noted that the report cards use results from tests that were taken last fall, which reflect student learning from the previous school year. Next fall’s report cards will use data from tests administered this spring.

“As families review the report cards, we encourage them to learn more about their school’s improvement plan and our annual report, which details (their) school’s focus for the year and our most current results,” Cheatham said.

Nearly 200 schools that don’t receive ratings either because they are new, don’t have enough test-takers or serve special needs students for the first time this year, received an alternative measurement.

This year’s report cards also include some technical changes to the formula, such as including a fifth year of data to the closing gaps score, which DPI said improved the “fairness and accuracy” of the results. Changes were also made to the formula last year, making comparisons between each year inexact.

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