Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has had a long and hard fight to bring about a new accountability system to the state's schools, and now, with the release of the first set of school report cards, he gets to see the first returns on his effort. The news brought by the report cards seems to be good — a full three-quarters of the state's public schools are performing at or above expectations.
Still, there is some alarming information in the data. Just over 17% of Wisconsin's 2,118 rated schools are either not meeting expectations set out by the state's accountability system or are meeting only a few of them.
The report cards assign a score on a 100-point scale to every school and then use that score to place each school in one of five performance categories. This first round excludes about 11% of the state's schools because they are either too new, have too few students or fall in a group that isn't evaluated under the new system.
In a statement hailing the release, Walker congratulated state Superintendent of Education Tony Evers on finally bringing accountability to Wisconsin's education system and expressed delight at the fact that a vast majority of districts are performing well.
While a majority of school districts are performing at or exceeding expectations, there are still too many that are failing. All Wisconsin kids deserve high-quality public education. Parents, caregivers, and communities need to know how their local schools are performing, so they can make informed decisions about their children's educations and futures.
Evers said that scores themselves are less important then the data underlying them, because the data can then be used to guide schools in their efforts to improve.
Madison superintendent Jane Belmore said the ratings reflect data the district is already using to improve schools.
"We aren't going to be satisfied until we have every child achieving," Belmore said.
Seven Madison schools and five other Dane County schools "significantly exceed expectations," a designation only 3 percent of schools in the state received.
The scores themselves are derived from various measures including student achievement, test score gains over three years, strides taken in closing achievement gaps and college readiness upon high school graduation. Schools can lose points if an insufficiently high percentage of their students take state-mandated standardized exams, if they have too high a truancy rate or too many of their students drop out before graduation.