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Waukesha School District's more diverse, economically challenged schools score lower in report

But each schools individual rating not finalized yet after errors were found

Nov. 6, 2012

Waukesha School District Superintendent Todd Gray might not have final scores and a rating from the Department of Public Instruction report cards on the 2011-12 school year for each school, but the information revealed regarding student achievement and the growth at the schools does provide a good indicator of the schools.

Based on this information, the demographics in a district that has such awide-range of schools and students shows how some schools are thriving and others are trailing them.

The report cards, part of the new state accountability system, provide data on multiple indicators for four priority areas:

Student Achievement (based on performance on the Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination and Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities in reading and mathematics)

Student Growth (uses a point system that gives positive credit for students progressing toward higher performance levels and negative credit for students declining below proficiency)

Closing Gaps (measures how much the achievement gap between student subgroups of students and traditional students is shrinking in a school)

On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness (indicates whether the school is putting kids on the course to graduate from high school and be ready for postsecondary training or education options)

The outcome for the report cards in Waukesha?

While not overly shocking, the more diverse schools with students of different races and the ones that had students who came from economically disadvantaged groups had a lower on average student achievement level than those with less diverse and economically disadvantaged students.

West highest achievement

This is evident in the high schools.

Waukesha West, where 11.3 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged, outdistanced itself from the other two high schools in the student achievement category. West, which is also much less diverse than South and North with only 2.7 percent of its enrollment black and 5.6 Hispanic, scored a 73.1, above the state average of 66.5.

North's percentage of economically disadvantaged students is 22.4 percent and South is at 39.4. South's enrollment is also 7.7 percent black and 24.4 percent Hispanic, while North is at 6.1 black and 12.9 Hispanic.

North (61.4) and South (59.0) were below the state average in student achievement.

The other categories weren't yet available, Gray said, due to errors in attendance reporting and student demographics, which might have been impacting the scores.

As a result, Gray asked the DPI to delay putting out final school scores until everything was corrected.

Middle schools below state

All three middle schools, Horning, Butler and Central, were below the state average for student achievement at 65.5, 64.9 and 61.8, respectively.

Horning, however, was slightly above the 55.0 state average in student growth at 55.4. Central was also just above the state average in closing the gap.

The diversity levels and demographic differences were not as widespread as the high schools or elementary schools. However, Horning did buck the trend as it had the most students economically disadvantaged at 40.5 percent, but had the highest percentage of student achievement.

Schools face challenges

Nine of the 14 elementary schools were below the state average of 66.4 on student achievement.

White Rock, which closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year and had been the district's primary bilingual center, had the lowest student achievement score in the district at 38.6. But White Rock also had the highest economically disadvantaged students at 87.5 percent as well as students with a limited English proficiency at 72.3 percent.

And while Blair also had a low student achievement mark at 43.9, that school also ranks up as one of the highest when it comes to economically disadvantaged and limited English proficiency (72.8, 53.1 percent). These schools, including Whittier (45.9 student achievement) which has a large black and Hispanic population, have a mix of races and ethnicities.

Bethesda, on the other hand, had the highest student achievement with an 80.1 score. Meadowbrook (78.5), Rose Glen (77.2) and Summit View (76.3) also scored high.

But the differences, the report cards show, are that these four schools have fewer students who are economically disadvantaged (Meadowbrook and Rose Glen are under 10 percent) and who are less limited when it comes to English proficiency. These schools are also four of the less diverse schools in the district.

Seven of the elementary schools had above state average scores for student growth with Banting, which was below the state average on student achievement, showing significant growth at 81.2. The state average for student growth in the elementary schools is 67.4. Hadfield, below the state average in student achievement, also saw a significant bump in student growth, as did Blair.

Some charters not revealed

Waukesha STEM Academy, a charter elementary and middle school that specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, scored high with a 77.4 student achievement score and a 78.3 student growth, both well above the state averages.

Other charter schools, eAchieve Academy scored a 64.6 and Waukesha Academy of Health Professions had a 76.2 score in the student achievement category.

The districts' other charter schools, Waukesha Engineering Preparatory, Project Change Recovery School and Harvey Philip Alternative High School, did not have any scores available.

'Single score misleading'

A school's overall accountability score and rating places the school into one of five overall accountability ratings: Significantly exceeds expectations, exceeds expectations, meets expectations, meets few expectations or fails to meet expectations.

Although that ranking isn't there yet for eachWaukesha school, Gray said labeling a school can be deceiving.

"The most important data showing student achievement, student growth is still there and we expect few changes to that information," said Gray, who is not a fan of having tardiness and absences factor into the final school rating. "That is what people really should be looking at. Unfortunately, I think many people are simply going to look at that school score without looking at the factors that make up the score and form an opinion on that school.

"In some cases that single score is very misleading due to how they weight theindividual factors."

He added that there are other factors that go into a school's success.

"The new report cards do not measure other important factors that teachers provide to influence students tosucceed, yet are every bit as important than student achievement tests," Gray said. "I would much rather the DPI skip the single score and show grades for the individual factors on the upper right hand side of the report card."

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