Green Bay Area Public Schools scored 64.7 out of a possible 100 points in the state's new school accountability report cards, according to data released in late 2012 by the Department of Public Instruction. On an A-F grading scale, this would put the city's schools at a C- overall.
That puts Green Bay third out of the state's five largest districts, in front of Racine and Milwaukee but behind Madison and Kenosha. The district's score was 5.5 points lower than the statewide average for all public schools.
Despite strong showings in Student Growth, Closing Gaps, and On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness, Green Bay fell in the middle of the curve for Wisconsin's largest district. Some of this disappointment can be traced back to penalties that many schools suffered on their individual report cards. Schools were docked five points each for infractions such as low test participation rates, high numbers of dropouts, and high absenteeism rates.
Schools were given overall grades that were based on their scores in four separate categories. Those were 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 to help make them easier to reference and understand.
In Green Bay, one of 37 schools earned a Significantly Exceeds Expectations, or "A" grade, McAuliffe Elementary School. One other institution, MacArthur Elementary came close by earning a rating higher than 80. Seven schools earned "B" grades in all; Aldo Leopold Community School and the Elmore, Keller, King, Langlade, MacArthur, and Webster Elementary Schools, Nicolet Elementary School, Washington Middle School, and East and West High Schools all earned failing grades.
Green Bay had only one charter school, the John Dewey Academy of Learning. The Academy, a project-based learning institution for students in grades 8-12, opened its doors in 2011 and thus did not have any data available for this year's round of report cards. It is the first charter school to operate in the city.
As we've seen in other districts across Wisconsin, Green Bay suffered from a drop in grades as students got older. Their elementary schools performed best on average, while high schools put together the worst grades in the city. Schools that catered to students in grades K-5 outperformed high schools by nearly eight points. That gap is the difference between a "D" grade and a "C" or "C-". This drop was similarly significant between elementary and middle schools.
As we have seen in other Wisconsin districts, data for student growth at the high school level was not available. It's not yet known what kind of impact, positive or negative, the inclusion of that data will have on overall scores in a district's high schools.
Green Bay is outperforming larger districts like Racine and Milwaukee, but these results are still disappointing for students in one of Wisconsin's most famous cities. Students there have to deal with middle and high schools that rate out as a "D" according to state measurements. While things are better for pupils in the earlier grades, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
One thing that may help the district could be the inclusion of charter schools. Wisconsin's large cities have had their report card averages bolstered by charter programs that have, on average, outperformed their public school counterparts in DPI's metric. In Kenosha, the difference between regular public schools and charters was nearly a 10 point gap [LINK: Kenosha Report Cards].
That's only one way to address the problem, but the lesson is clear. Green Bay has work to do in order to improve schools that garnered a C-, on average, but the state Department of Public Instruction. Reform is needed to transform Green Bay Area Public schools into institutions that offer the best possible options for their students.