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Most Wisconsin schools, districts meet expectations

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — More Wisconsin schools and districts are meeting or exceeding expectations than last year as measured on report cards released publicly Tuesday by the state education department, although dozens of schools and one district received the lowest ranking.

The school report cards released by the state Department of Public Instruction are now in their fourth year. The report cards are designed to be used by people living in the districts to hold schools accountable for their performance and growth, or reduction in scores, from year to year.

Overall, the report cards showed growth but pockets of under-performing schools remain. Of the 53 schools receiving the lowest one-star rating, meaning they failed to meet expectations, more than half — 28 — were in the Milwaukee Public School District. That district received a two-star rating, meaning it meets few expectations.

Milwaukee’s spokeswoman said the district would comment on the report card later Tuesday.

Among the state’s nine other largest districts, Racine was the only other one that got two stars. There were 17 districts statewide that received the two-star rating. The state’s eight other largest districts received three stars, meaning they meet expectations. Those are Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay, Appleton, Waukesha, Eau Claire, Janesville and Sheboygan.

Nearly all of 421 public school districts, 97%, met or exceeded expectations. That is up from 96% last year. Eighty-seven percent of schools met or exceeded expectations, up from 84% last year.

The Mercer School District in northern Wisconsin was the only one with the lowest one-star rating meaning it failed to meet expectations. Last year it had a two-star rating. More than half of its students, 51%, were categorized as economically disadvantaged.

Mercer’s interim administrator Sheri Kopka said in a letter to parents that the rating “does not accurately reflect the quality of our schools.”

Given that the district has just 160 students, there can be a lot of variability in the numbers from year to year, Kopka said. Even so, Kopka said the district was making improvements including revising its math curriculum.

Users of the report card should not just focus on the overall scores, but also look at priority areas and talk with school and districts leaders about performance, said Laura Pinsonneault, director of the state education department’s office of educational accountability. It’s important for people to know that performance can be measured in a lot of different ways, she said.

Schools and districts with lower ratings on average have higher poverty levels than those with higher ratings, the education department said. This year, the 210 schools with the two-star rating had 63.5% of students categorized as economically disadvantaged. And of the 53 schools that received the one-star rating, more than 78% of students were economically disadvantaged.

But the highest rated schools with five stars only have 25.5% of students who are economically disadvantaged. This year, 40 districts and 318 schools received a five-star rating.

The ratings are based on four areas: student achievement in English language arts and math; student growth; closing gaps between student groups; and measuring readiness for graduation and postsecondary success. Scores are reduced for missing goals, including have absenteeism greater than 13% and dropout rates below 6%.

This year 2,112 public schools and 322 private choice schools received report cards.

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