It’s not just the students who are getting report cards during the 2012-13 school year.
On Monday, Oct. 22, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued a School Report Card for every public school in Wisconsin. The new school year has brought new measures on how the MMSD and other districts throughout the state evaluate its progress and makes improvements. Madison superintendent Jane Belmore said the ratings reflect data the district is already using to improve schools.
“There were no really surprises for us because we’ve been working with this data for over a year now,” Belmore tells The Madison Times. “It’s a complex picture – and maybe a better picture than we’ve had before — but we still believe we are on track with the strategies that we’ve developed and have started to put in place with this first year of the achievement gap plan.”
The school report cards, she adds, confirm MMSD’s knowledge about how the schools are doing on increasing student achievement, closing gaps, and preparing students for college or career.
Seven Madison schools — Van Hise, Randall, Shorewood Hills, Marquette, Franklin and Lapham elementary schools and Hamilton Middle School — "significantly exceed expectations" according to the report cards. That’s a designation only 3 percent of schools in the state received.
“We’ve all been spending a lot of time lately learning about this new system and the good news is that the vast majority of our [Madison] schools meet or exceed the expectations,” Belmore says. “But we know that we’re not going to be satisfied until every single child in every school is achieving at or above expectations, so we know we have work to do. But the report cards really confirmed for us the information that we sent out last year [that] the District [was] studying as we built our “Building Our Future Plan: [Approved Plan for Elminating Gaps in MMSD Student Achievment.]”
According to the Wisconsin DPI, the school report cards look at areas of growth and areas of engagement. They put the data into different categories that will help schools focus a little more and shine some light on things.
“At [Madison] East [High], for example — where we’re really doing good work in closing the achievement gap if you look at the report card — there was work that needed to be done in attendance and we’ve known that and we’ve already started on it,” Belmore says. “We have the AVID/TOPS program this year that we really think will help with engagement. At East, we’re seeing suspension reduced by 25 percent. We’re doing things to strengthen the core programs there. I really think that we’re on our way to address what we see as a concern there and at the same time we can celebrate some of the things that we’re already doing to help us close the achievement gap.”
The school report cards are just one part of a new, statewide accountability system for schools. To develop the system, DPI worked closely with parents, educators, and members of the business community. This system and the report cards will grow and develop in future years.
The new statewide accountability system will also include methods to spread effective practices of high-performing schools and support to help struggling schools improve. School report cards will come out every year and student results on state tests will continue to be reported.
“We’re going to keep working hard on that first year of the achievement gap plan. Even though we see some strengths in the [report card] data, we’re not going to be satisfied until all of our children are achieving at high levels,” Belmore says.
The school report cards show the schools their strengths and weaknesses and give schools the opportunity to learn from one another. The school report cards will be one of many tools that can be used to make improvements and close gaps in achievement.
“We really are using our ‘Building our Future [achievement gap plan]’ to work at the areas of improvement that we need to continue working with,” Belmore says. “We’re adding parent liasons to work on building consistent connections with families. We’re ramping up on our focus on literacy, especially in the early grades. We’re making significant changes to our hiring process so that we will hopefully be making more progress in diversifying our workforce. And we’re having pretty significant half-day learning sessions around cultural and linguistic responsiveness and using these kind of best practices in the classroom across the District. I think that the report card information taking together with the planning that we’ve already done through the Achievement Gap Plan will really help shine the light on where we need to go in the future.”
For more information about school report cards, please visit www.mmsd.org/schoolreportcards.