Waukesha School District "meets expectations" on DPI's report cards
But superintendent says it's not far off from "exceeds expectations"
Todd Gray wasn't convinced.
It was almost a week after the Department of Public Instruction's report cards were released and listed the Waukesha School District in the "Meets Expectations" category. It's a group that 63 percent or 269 of the 424 public school districts fell in.
The superintendent said the district should be in the "Exceeds Expectations" category, a rating given to 32 percent of districts.
"I am going to dig," Gray said. "When I look at individual school scores meeting expectations opposed to exceeding we weren't that far off so it doesn't seem to make sense."
Nevertheless, the DPI gave the Waukesha School District an overall accountability rating score of 69.9 on the report cards. The report cards evaluate student achievement in reading and mathematics, student growth in those areas, closing gaps for reading and math achievement, and graduation, based on student subgroups and postsecondary readiness.
The DPI has five categories based on a 0-100 scale (Fails to Meet Expectations: 0-52.9; Meets Few Expectations: 53-62.9; Meets Expectations: 63-72.9; Exceeds Expectations: 73-82.9; and Significantly Exceeds Expectations: 83-100).
"We're not far off from exceeding expectations," Gray said. "We're on the borderline. That's not to say that we don't have a lot of work to do. We'll keep pushing in that direction with a huge focus on literacy as it starts with reading.
"I'm happy with our growth, as 60 percent of our schools had improved performances, but we still need to push for better results."
Fourteen of the schools "met expectations," including nine of the elementary schools. All three of the district's middle schools and North and South high school landed in this category.
As Gray said, eight of these schools were closer to the "exceeds expectations," including Hillcrest Elementary which was less than 0.2 points away from that group. Bethesda Elementary, Butler Middle School and Prairie Elementary were also in the upper half of the "meets expectations" section.
Five schools — Summit View Elementary, Rose Glen Elementary, Waukesha STEM Academy, Waukesha Academy of Health Professionals and Waukesha West High School — "exceeded expectations."
STEM Academy, a charter school specializing in science, technology, engineering and math, scored the highest on student achievement of these schools.
Waukesha Engineering Prep, meanwhile, was the only school in the district and one of only 86 in the state that "significantly exceeded expectations." Waukesha Engineering Prep, one of the district's seven charter schools, is housed inside Waukesha South High School.
"I was very impressed with that," Gray said.
However, three schools, two of which were elementary schools — Hadfield and Blair — and the eAchieve Academy, "met few expectations."
Gray said, "(Blair and Hadfield) were very, very close to meeting expectations."
Hadfield and Blair are the two most economically disadvantaged schools in the district. More than 80 percent of Blair students are economically disadvantaged and 55.8 percent have limited English proficiency. The school's race/ethnicity is 66.5 percent Hispanic.
Blair did, however, improve in three of the four areas, including student growth, its reading and math gaps, and on-track and postsecondary readiness.
"There's great things going on there, and that is going to turn around in the next few years," Gray said. "I wouldn't be surprised if in 18 months there's a great turnaround as the principal there is having a new approach, and there's a lot of positive things going on there educationally."
Hadfield consists of 61.2 percent economically disadvantaged students. This is an increase from 49.5 percent in 2011-12.
Even so, Banting, where 58.8 percent of the students are labeled economically disadvantaged, is in the upper half of schools in the "meets expectations" group. Whittier Elementary is also an example of this, where more than 65 percent of its population includes low-income students.
"We don't use that as an excuse," Gray said. "We're trying to eliminate issues with student achievement and closing the gap (across the board)."
The district was below the state average in student achievement at 65.7 on a 100-point scale. It scored slightly above the state average in reading and slightly below in mathematics.
Highs and lows
Most of the schools stayed in the same category as last year with the exception of four. And three of the four — Waukesha South High School, Horning Middle School and Whittier Elementary — enjoyed nice jumps into the "meets expectation" section.
South improved by 10 points from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and Horning jumped by just under four points, while Whittier also upped its total by six points.
eAchieve Academy, however, went from "meets expectations" to "meets few expectations."
The deduction category is why there was a jump in the three schools and a slide in Waukesha's online school.
In 2011-12, South had a 10-point deduction (five in test participation and five in absentee). This year there were no deductions. Meanwhile, Horning and Whittier did not have the five-point deduction in the absentee category as it did in 2011-12. eAchieve had a drop in every category, including a five-point deduction in dropout rate.
Gray said eAchieve going down can be attributed to the turnover the program sees.
"Students start with the online school, but then realize it's not for them and return to their normal school," Gray said. "We get penalized for that. I think it's a problem with the report card system and hope that changes in the future."
So how will individual schools improve to improve the district's overall score?
Gray said a different kind of professional development could take place and hopes the implementation of iPads helps as well as new math programs.
"It's all going to depend on needs," Gray said when asked if the lower-scoring schools will receive more resources. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all situation and we like to look at the big picture."
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