Report cards

Most area school districts meet or exceeded expectations based on state report cards released last week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Two were scored as meeting few expectations.

Birchwood, Bruce and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser school districts are the only area school systems to exceed expectations, the report cards show. Flambeau and Winter school districts meet expectations. Ladysmith and Lake Holcombe school districts meet few expectations.

This breaks down to individual school scores of:

n Birchwood elementary and middle each exceed expectations and Birchwood high meets expectations.

n Bruce elementary meets expectations, Bruce middle significantly exceeds expectations and Bruce high meets expectations.

n Chetek-Weyerhaeuser elementary, middle and high all exceed expectations.

n Flambeau elementary exceeds expectations and Flambeau middle and high schools, each meet expectations.

n Ladysmith elementary and middle meet expectations and Ladysmith high meets few expectations.

n Lake Holcombe elementary and high schools meet few expectations.

n Winter elementary, middle and high all meet expectations.

n Our Lady of Sorrows data was not available with insufficient data to produce a score.

Statewide there were 17 out of 421 public school districts rated two stars, as meeting few expectations. These include Ladysmith and Lake Holcombe school systems, however the Ladysmith score was one of several to include a caveat.

The Ladysmith School District overall score of 60.3 was more than 10 points less than last year’s score of 71.7, leading the state to issue an alert about interpreting large fluctuations in the data. DPI officials reported the department considers this amount of change an outlier which may not reflect the actual magnitude of change in performance and should be interpreted with caution.

Ladysmith School District interim Administrator Mike Cox called the results unacceptable.

“We will be analyzing these report cards and developing a plan to increase the district performance,” Cox said.

The Bruce School District is pleased with the performance at all levels and especially at the middle school level, according to School District Administrator Pat Sturzl in highlighting the significantly exceeding expectations result in grades 6-8.

“Bruce Middle School has significantly exceeded expectations every year of the state report card,” Sturzl said. “The district will use school report cards and other data to continue to improve the district’s academic performance.”

Much has changed this year with the report cards, according to Lake Holcombe School District Administrator Kurt Lindau. Among the changes is the ACT Aspire is now included, he said.

Several area administrators including Lindau, Flambeau School District Administrator Erica Schley and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser Area School District Administrator Mark Johnson did not provide an assessment of the results this week. All three cited an upcoming Cooperative Educational Services Agency meeting this week at which administrators would review the data.

ACT Aspire Early High School is a summative assessment that measures what students have learned in the areas of English, reading, math, science and writing. These scores predict how a student will perform on the ACT when they reach 11th grade. Students who need academic interventions or challenges can be identified earlier in their high school careers.

Birchwood School District Administrator Diane Johnson touted her school for scoring in the top one-third of 15 area schools.

“In advocating for students and their learning, staff members meet weekly to discuss academic as well as social and emotional support systems that can be provided within the school and the community to support students.  Within the school, all K-12 students participate in an intervention and enrichment block at least four days a week.  Students who need small group support or sharpening of a particular skill receive extra learning interventions,” Johnson said. “Students who are beyond the curriculum are enriched with a variety of activities, including science-technology-engineering-art-math lessons.

Student mental health demands have grown significantly over the past two years as well as the overall need for family supports, according to Johnson.

“To address these specific necessities, the school hosts a therapist through Northlakes Clinic two days a week, at no cost to the district.  Additionally a school-to-home liaison is present five days a week, a position financially supported through a joint grant written by school district and Washburn County personnel.  Staff members also understand that building relationships, providing breakfast, sending nourishment on the weekends, providing toiletries, and ensuring students they are safe are necessary before learning can occur,” Johnson said.

The state DPI announced the percentage of public and private schools and public school districts meeting expectations on state report cards remains high. On state report cards issued for the 2018-19 school year, overall 87 percent of rated schools met or exceeded expectations as did 96 percent of the state’s 421 public school districts.

This is the fourth year the report cards used legislatively required calculations, and the fourth year private schools in the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide parental choice programs received report cards. For  the 2018-19 school year, 2,112 public schools and 322 private choice schools received report cards. Of choice schools, 106 exercised the option to receive an all-student report card in addition to the required report card for choice students only.

Report card ratings range from five stars, denoting schools and districts that significantly exceed expectations, to one star for those that fail to meet expectations. Scores are calculated in four priority areas: student achievement; school growth; closing gaps between student groups; and measures of students being on-track for postsecondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Report cards provide a snapshot of performance across the four priority areas and can be used to target improvement efforts.

Scores are reduced for schools and districts that miss student engagement indicator goals of keeping absenteeism below 13 percent and dropout rates below 6 percent. The last five years have each seen an increase in the number of schools receiving the absenteeism deduction. For the 2018-19 school year, 153 school report cards lost five points from the accountability score for missing the absenteeism target, up from 125 in the 2017-18 school year.

In situations where there is insufficient data to calculate a score in a priority area, such as not having enough prior years for comparison in the growth measure, the measure is omitted, not counting toward the overall score, so that the remaining measures weigh more heavily.

This year, a score in the area of closing gaps was also omitted if that score would have changed at least 20 points (positive or negative) from last year. Such large score changes typically result from the effect of changing numbers of students in a subgroup, rather than actual changes in performance. The removal of large-swing scores in the closing gaps area applied to 150 schools and five districts and is a one-year change.

By law, the more students who are economically disadvantaged in a school or district, the more weight is given to the growth score. In spite of this effort to account for the challenges of poverty, schools and districts with lower accountability ratings on average have higher poverty levels than those with higher accountability ratings. For the 2018-19 report cards, schools that meet few expectations (two stars) have 63.5 percent of students who are economically disadvantaged (ECD). Schools that fail to meet expectations (one star) have an ECD rate of 78.2 percent. Schools that self-identify as needing improvement through alternate accountability have a combined ECD rate of 55.1 percent. Conversely, schools at the five-star accountability rating, significantly exceeds expectations, have only 25.5 percent of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

For 2018-19 report cards, 40 districts were rated at the highest accountability level, a five-star rating, meaning they significantly exceed expectations. Forming the largest group are 198 districts achieving four stars, which means they exceed expectations. The three-star, meets expectations, rating was given to 163 districts. Seventeen districts were rated two stars, meets few expectations. One district failed to meet expectations, the one-star category. No districts were rated using the alternate accountability measures this year.

Report cards with fluctuations of 10 or more points on the overall score from the prior year carry a “^” notation because the department considers this amount of change an outlier which may not reflect the actual magnitude of change in performance and should be interpreted with caution. Six district report cards, or around 1 percent, carry the “^” notation, including the report card for the Ladysmith School District.

At the school level, 318 public and private school report cards earned five stars (significantly exceeds expectations), 807 earned four stars (exceeds expectations), 679 earned three stars (meets expectations), 210 earned two stars (meets few expectations), and 53 earned one star (fails to meet expectations). As with district report cards, the 192 schools with ratings that fluctuated 10 or more points carry the ^ notation. Of the schools receiving report cards through the alternate accountability process, 151 were rated as making satisfactory progress and 27 were rated as needing improvement. Alternate accountability (AA) is a self-evaluation of a school’s performance on raising student achievement in English language arts, mathematics, and attendance or graduation rates. It is used for new schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full-time academic year students who took tests. Private schools participating in a parental choice program do not participate in alternate accountability. The report cards for the 189 choice schools with insufficient data for 2018-19 carry the designation of not rated because of data.

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