MADISON — More than 82 percent of public schools and 91 percent of districts earned three or more stars on the state’s 2015-16 report cards, meaning they met or exceeded expectations for educating students. Another 227 schools in the state’s three private parental choice programs submitted accountability data to the Department of Public Instruction but did not have scores or ratings because report cards require more than one year of data.
The 2015-16 report cards are based on major changes that were included in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 state budget. Though they provide a snapshot of school and district performance, the 2015-16 report cards are not comparable to report cards issued in prior years and do not represent a full picture of the important work taking place in schools throughout the state. Local schools and districts will have additional information about student opportunities and performance.
Overall, 329 schools earned five-star ratings, 624 had four-stars, 635 schools earned three stars, 243 schools earned two stars, and 99 schools earned one star. Another 162 public schools achieved satisfactory progress and 22 public schools need improvement through alternate accountability. On district-level report cards, 54 districts earned five-star ratings, 187 districts earned four stars, 144 earned three stars, 33 earned two stars, and five earned one star. One district, the Norris School District with enrollment of 32 students for 2015-16, achieved satisfactory progress through the alternate accountability process.
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, kindergarten through second-grade schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full academic year students who took the state test.
Accountability ratings are calculated on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, student growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of readiness for graduation and postsecondary success, 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: test participation (95% for all students and each subgroup), absenteeism (less than 13%), and dropout rates (less than 6%). Test participation deductions were not applied to district report cards for 2015-16 because of changes in federal education law. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) puts accountability for test participation at the school, not district, level.
The 2015-16 report cards underwent major changes that were part of Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 state budget. Variable weighting was implemented to address the impact of poverty on student achievement. The higher the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in a school or district, the higher the weight that is placed on student growth scores. The method for calculating student growth changed from student growth percentiles to a value-added methodology. Additionally, the Legislature required a change from the Badger Exam offered through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in 2014-15 to the Forward Exam last school year. As a result of these legislated changes and because report cards rely on multiple years of data for accurate reporting, 2015-16 report cards are based on one year each of Badger and Forward exams, the 11th-grade ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps assessments as well as data from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam and Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities. Using data from three different assessments in calculations, along with other changes, makes comparisons of school and district performance to prior report card ratings inaccurate and inadvisable.
This was the first year that schools in the Milwaukee, Racine, and Wisconsin parental choice programs submitted data to the DPI using a new data collection system. Report cards for these schools do not have any scores or ratings because at least two years of data is needed. Attendance and absenteeism rates lag by one year and graduation rates require four years of data. Legislative requirements to produce report cards give choice schools an opportunity to opt-in to receive a report card for all students attending the private school rather than just students participating in the choice program. That option will open to choice schools for the 2016-17 report cards.
NOTES: Graphs of school and district report card ratings are included in the official news release. More information and a link to report cards for all schools and districts can be found online at School and District Report Cards Home.