Wisconsin issues school report cards
Wisconsin's school report cards are back following a one-year hiatus. The report cards were released to the public earlier this month, and most Douglas County schools fared well. The Superior, Maple and Northwood school districts received passing...
Wisconsin’s school report cards are back following a one-year hiatus.
The report cards were released to the public earlier this month, and most Douglas County schools fared well.
The Superior, Maple and Northwood school districts received passing marks for all of their schools, while Solon Springs was rated as meeting few expectations.
Before this year, Solon Springs had met expectations on the past four report cards issued for the K-12 school.
In a letter sent to the Solon Springs School Board and posted on the school district’s website, principal Dene Muller said the report card results would be used as a “baseline for improvement.”
“We have already implemented a study team to address our math curriculum, we have also operationalized daily support for any students who earn grades below a C in the classrooms, and staff collaboration time has been assigned for all teachers to address student achievement and success,” Muller wrote. “We will continue to use state testing data as a flashlight to highlight areas of improvement in our district.”
Muller added in a phone call Wednesday that she disagreed with the report card’s representation of Solon Springs as a school that meets few expectations.
“A test is a snapshot in time,” she said. “We’re not ignoring the feedback on this, but we’re also going to maintain what we do well, which is educating the whole child.
“That score is truly not a reflection of who we are.”
The release of the 2015-16 report cards follows a period of several years in which Wisconsin tweaked its student testing and reporting standards.
Wisconsin has used three different state assessments in the past three years to measure student achievement. The state began by phasing out the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam in 2013-14 and then administered the Badger Exam for one year before replacing it with the Wisconsin Forward Exam in 2015-16.
School report cards were not issued in 2014-15 when students took the short-lived Badger Exam. Numerous schools complained of problems with the test, and the Wisconsin Legislature consequently passed a bill instructing the Department of Public Instruction not to issue report cards based on the assessment.
With the Forward Exam, launched last year, the state rolled out a new school report card format. It features a weighting formula intended to factor in variables that can affect student performance, such as socioeconomic status, and employs a new model to measure student growth.
To determine whether schools meet expectations, they receive scores in four categories: student achievement, student growth, closing gaps and on-track and postsecondary readiness. Each school must also meet benchmarks for test participation, dropout and absenteeism rates.
Solon Springs was the only local school to miss one of the student engagement benchmarks this year. The school received a five-point deduction for failing to meet the 95 percent test participation standard.
Without the deduction, Solon Springs would have been seven-tenths of a point from meeting expectations.
The deduction was assessed to the school because students with disabilities did not meet the test participation benchmark. Muller said two or three students in that subgroup did not take the test due to requests from parents.
“We honor the parents’ requests for those things. It isn’t taken lightly,” Muller said.
But by honoring those requests, Solon Springs falls into a difficult situation.
“Because our numbers are small, when parents choose to opt out their kids, it drastically affects our scores,” Muller said.
Solon Springs is not the only Northwestern Wisconsin school district hurt by deductions this year.
The Ashland school district saw Ashland High School rated in the lowest category after being slapped with a total of 15 points in deductions. The high school received a five-point deduction for absenteeism and a 10-point deduction for test participation. Without the deductions, Ashland High School would have been two-tenths of a point from a “meets expectations” rating.
The Superior school district also has experience with deductions. All eight schools in the district met or surpassed expectations this year, but superintendent Janna Stevens said she doesn’t place much emphasis on the state-mandated assessment.
“I don’t find the report cards to be helpful or useful in any way, shape or form,” she said.
In the past, the school district had struggled to earn passing marks for Superior High School, which received a deduction for absenteeism in 2011-12 and for test participation in 2012-13. In each case, SHS missed the cutoff score to meet expectations, despite surpassing state averages on the ACT both years.
When Wisconsin announced plans to change its annual statewide assessment, Stevens was hopeful the state would adopt a test that is “an actual measure of a student’s ability.”
The current report cards and statewide assessment do not meet that expectation, she said.
“I wish the state would have looked at a test that adapts to the individual,” Stevens said. “I don’t know why they chose a static test.”
In Superior, student achievement is gauged through formative assessments and MAP (measures of academic progress) testing. That approach allows the district to gain an ongoing perspective and to provide teachers with useful - and timely - feedback.
“One snapshot really doesn’t help a school at all,” Stevens said.
Find report cards for all Wisconsin schools at dpi.wi.gov/accountability/report-cards.