95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in new statewide ‘report card’

Racine Unified School District scored a passing grade in the latest round of state report cards, meaning it won’t face the possibility of area villages breaking off and forming their own districts.

A provision in this year’s state budget would have allowed Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Caledonia to leave Racine Unified if the district received a failing grade.

More than 95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in a new “report card” released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction. Private schools accounted for nearly 25% of the schools that failed to meet expectations, and most of those private schools are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the voucher program), according to an analysis of the report cards by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That is a very high percentage of voucher schools making the “failing” list, given the fact that they make up a much lower percentage of schools overall. In addition, 140 private voucher schools were not rated because of insufficient data.

“On one hand, the vast majority of parents choose public schools for their students, and more than 95 percent of districts are meeting or exceeding expectations set forth on the report cards,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “On the other hand, there is a troubling number of voucher schools still unaccountable for performance – even though private school tuition is paid for by taxpayers.

“If Wisconsin is serious about school performance, legislators should focus and invest in the public schools that serve the majority of students instead of siphoning public school funds off to private voucher schools.”


From the Department of Public Instruction:

In the second year of report cards that use legislatively mandated growth and value-added calculations, 82 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private school report cards had three or more stars, meaning the schools met or exceeded expectations for educating students. More than 95 percent of the state’s public school districts earned a three-star rating.

Overall, 361 public and private school report cards earned five-star ratings, 719 had four stars, 643 had three stars, 261 had two stars, and 117 schools earned one star. Another 173 schools achieved satisfactory progress and 21 need improvement through alternate accountability. There were 152 report cards for 140 private choice schools that are not rated because there was insufficient data. This is the second year that choice schools were included in report cards and the second year the schools could opt to have both a choice student and an all student report card.

On district level report cards, 44 districts earned five-star ratings, 190 had four stars, 166 earned three stars, and 20 had two stars. One district, the Herman-Rubicon-Neosho School District, was not rated because of district consolidation. Another district, the Norris School District with enrollment of 14 students in 2016-17, made satisfactory progress through alternate accountability.

Alternate accountability is a district supervised self-evaluation of a school’s performance on raising student achievement in English language arts and mathematics. The alternate accountability process is used for new schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full academic year students who took state tests.

Accountability ratings are calculated on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, school growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of postsecondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Additionally, schools and districts could have point deductions for missing targets for student engagement: absenteeism must be less than 13 percent and dropout rates must be less than 6 percent.

For the 2016-17 report cards, 162 schools and 24 districts had score fluctuations of 10 or more points in both overall and growth scores compared to 2015-16, which is larger variability than expected. Their report cards carry a ^ notation because it is unclear if the score change accurately reflects the amount of change in performance or a symptom of statistical volatility. Report card requirements in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 budget bill, mandated the use of value-added growth scoring and variable weighting based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school or district. Prior to Act 55, overall annual report card score change averaged 3.3 points. Since Act 55, the average score change is 5.8 points. Although volatility in value-added scores may decrease with another year of Forward testing, score fluctuations are likely to continue especially for small schools and districts as well as schools and districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The Department of Public Instruction is engaging with state policymakers, technical experts, and stakeholders about how best to address these issues. Any changes to school report cards growth or weighting calculations will require legislative action.

Report cards are intended to help schools and districts use performance data to target improvement efforts to ensure students are ready for their next educational step, including the next grade level, graduation, college, and careers. The 2016-17 report cards use data from a variety of sources, including information reported through WISEdash and two years of Forward and one year of Badger testing as well as three years ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps testing for growth calculations. At least three and up to five years of data are used for the gaps priority area and four years of data is needed to calculate a graduation rate. Schools and districts have access to a number of accountability resources on the department website to support report card discussions with parents, school staff, and the public.