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Madison Schools Earn Just a C+ on Wisconsin's New Report Cards

Comments | Posted in News, mi reports | By Sean Lansing | Posted November 28, 2012 9:06 AM

MacIver News Service | November 28, 2012

Wisconsin's second-largest district "Meets Expectations" in first-round of state's new grading system

[Madison, Wisc...] The average Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) institution earned a C+ on the state's first round of report cards, but lapses in student achievement and closing learning gaps may pose problems for these schools in the future.

Madison has the second-largest enrollment of any district in Wisconsin, behind only Milwaukee. It is also one of the fastest growing districts in the state. 26,817 students attended Madison Public Schools in 2011-2012. That was an increase from 24,806 in 2010-2011 - a rise of over 8.1 percent in just a one-year span.

The district outperformed Milwaukee by a significant margin (Milwaukee Public Schools Earn a D- on Wisconsin's New Report Cards) but still had several flaws that held these local schools to an average grade of 70 out of 100 possible points. These grades dropped as students got older - the city's elementary schools averaged a 71 on the metric, while Madison's high schools only netted a 65.68.

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Schools were given overall grades based on their scores in four separate categories. Categories include student achievement (a base level of student knowledge), student growth (a measurement of annual student progress), closing gaps (how different student groups are performing), and on-track and postsecondary readiness (a measure of how prepared students are for the next step in their education). Additional deductions could be made on a school-by-school basis related to issues such as dropout rates, absenteeism and test participation.

These grades fell into five categories, which are shown below. These categories were not assigned letter grades by the state, but instead deal with expectations. However, A-F grades can be applied to each category, making them easier to reference and understand.

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Seven public schools in Madison scored highly enough to merit a "Significantly Exceeds Expectations" mark, which would be the equivalent of an "A" in a five-tiered letter grading system. Six of these institutions were elementary schools, while the seventh was a middle school.

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No Madison schools earned grades that fell below the 53-point failure threshold. 10 schools earned "Meets Few Expectations" grades, giving them the equivalent of a "D" in an A-F scale.

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Charter schools in the district fared worse in Madison than similar schools in Milwaukee. MMSD has just three charter schools operating within its limits. Only two of these schools had data available for this year's iteration of DPI's report cards. They averaged out at a 65.75 score overall, trailing the regular public school average by more than four points. The only area where these schools outperformed their counterparts in Madison was in the "Closing Gaps" category.

However, it is important to note that these results, coming from only two schools, cannot be considered conclusive. The small sample size in the district makes it difficult to determine whether or not these results would lead to a greater trend with a larger amount of charter schools.

The Madison Metropolitan School District was able to outperform Milwaukee, the first district we examined in this breakout format. Still, a C+ overall grade and a C- in student achievement leave plenty of room for improvement in the future. The district won't just be graded on overall progress in the next few years, but also in the progress it makes as new accountability programs, such as a new testing suite for students, are installed. While this year's results are a step up from the state's largest district, they still pose problems for students that are stuck in the capital city's underperforming schools.