Schools question fairness of report card ratingsWisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction released its annual school report cards Monday as part of its new school accountability system.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction released its annual school report cards Monday as part of its new school accountability system.
The majority of schools — 86 percent — received passing marks. Only 68 of the 1,877 schools evaluated earned the top rank of “significantly exceeds expectations,” and about the same number fell into the lowest category of “fails to meet expectations.”
The DPI flagged an additional 190 schools for meeting few expectations, a designation three local schools earned.
The Maple school district is in the process of challenging its rating for Northwestern High School, which was given a 62.2 score and listed in the “meets few expectations” category.
“Currently, that’s under review,” said Greg Blair, director of curriculum. “We filed an inquest on that.”
The Maple school district filed paperwork with the DPI about a week and a half ago to dispute the attendance data for Northwestern High School. Blair said Northwestern’s attendance data was misinterpreted in a way that artificially inflated the school’s absenteeism rate.
In the DPI’s evaluation system, students are counted as absent any time they’re not in the classroom, even if excused for school-related events.
At NHS, Blair said, students must be released early to accommodate long traveling distances for athletic and extra-curricular activities. All of those excused absences were reported in the high school’s overall absenteeism rate, causing it to balloon up to 15.5 percent.
Schools with an absenteeism rate higher than 13 percent receive a five-point deduction on their overall report card score.
“We were shocked ourselves,” Blair said. “We said, ‘Hey, what’s going on? This is not right.’”
The district quickly filed a complaint with the DPI and is awaiting a decision. If the five-point deduction is lifted, Northwestern High School would fall within the “meets expectations” range.
“I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen,” Blair said. “We’re not the only school in the state that has run across this.”
The Superior school district faces a similar situation with both Superior High School and Superior Middle School, which received “meets few expectations” ratings.
Like NHS, both Superior schools were docked five points for failing to meet the absenteeism rate requirement. Superior High School’s absenteeism rate was reported as 21.8 percent, and Superior Middle School’s was reported as 18 percent.
“When we saw that we thought, this is completely impossible,” said Janna Stevens, Superior superintendent. “I was very surprised.”
Stevens looked into the details of the rating and found attendance data for both schools had been inaccurately reported.
The Superior school district uses 10 different categories to track student attendance, but the DPI measures students only as present or not present. Because of the DPI’s limited definition, students receiving homebound instruction and those attending a school-sponsored event were counted as absent.
Superior is challenging the DPI’s rating for SHS and SMS, which received scores of 62.9 and 57.1, respectively.
At the elementary school level, five of Superior’s six schools fell within the “meets expectations” range and one was rated as “exceeds expectations.”
Northern Lights, Great Lakes, Four Corners, Cooper and Bryant all received scores between 67.7 and 71.2 points. Schools with 63-72.9 points fall within the “meets expectations” range.
Lake Superior Elementary School received an “exceeds expectations” rating with a score of 79.3.
“It’s closing the gap, that’s where they got their highest score,” Stevens said.
Lake Superior scored 94.2 points out of 100 in the closing gaps sections, which compares achievement levels from students with disabilities and low-income students with larger student population.
At Lake Superior, 59.5 percent of students are categorized as economically disadvantaged, but the school outpaced the state average in both reading and mathematics.
“What that means is, whether students (at Lake Superior) are facing poverty or not, they are succeeding at the same rate,” Stevens said.
Among other local schools, both Solon Springs School and Northwood School met expectations with scores of 63.1 and 63.4, respectively.
In the Maple school district, Iron River Elementary School and Northwestern Elementary School received almost identical scores to meet expectations, and Northwestern Middle School fell less than one point short of exceeding expectations with 72.4 points. The middle school matched or exceeded the state average in all areas except student attendance.
“We’re very pleased with that score, but there’s still room to improve,” Blair said. “This is a starting point for us.”