Wisconsin's string of relatively low performances in its largest districts continued in the latest round of report card analysis. Waukesha School District schools earned an average grade of 68.6 points out of 100, earning these institutions the equivalent of a "C" grade on the Department of Public Instruction's school accountability report cards.
This rating put Waukesha towards the top when looking at the grades for the Wisconsin large school districts that we've already observed. You can find our breakdowns on Milwaukee, Racine, Madison, Kenosha, and Green Bay by clicking their respective links. Of these six districts, Waukesha ranked second in terms of its overall score.
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 Waukesha, none of the 23 schools that received grades earned a Significantly Exceeds Expectations, or "A" grade, though two institutions - the Waukesha STEM Academy and the Waukesha Academy of Health Professions came close by earning a rating higher than 80. Six schools earned "B" grades in all; Bethesda, Hillcrest, and Rose Glen Elementary Schools, the two academies listed above, and West High School. None of Waukesha's public schools earned failing grades.
Unlike other districts we've reported on in Wisconsin, Waukesha actually sees stronger performance on their report cards in later grades. Each of the five other observed districts had their lowest performance fall on their high schools. In Waukesha, it's the opposite - the district's 9-12 grade institutions posted the strongest grades in the area.
Waukesha's elementary schools perform well, but it's clear that the performance in the city's middle schools is falling below the district's standards.
However, some of this data may be skewed by the Waukesha Academy of Health Professions' performance, which arrives at a B- grade with an asterix. The school is missing data reports for two of the four categories - student growth and closing gaps. The institution's score is also boosted by a perfect 100 in the On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness category, which has been shown to provide inflated scores when compared to other categories in the state's larger districts. This score may very well hold up, but we'll know more about WAHP's standing next year when more data can be collected from the school.
That effect also played a role in the district's charter schools outscoring the regular public schools on the first round of these report cards. Waukesha has five charter schools that are currently open, but since many are in the early stages of operation, only two were given grades. This small sample size produced an average grade that was significantly higher than the regular school average.
The average charter school grade was over 12 points higher than the average grade in Waukesha. However, since this comes from a very small sample size, analysis of this data should be done with caution. These report cards will be more valuable in their second iteration in 2013 when more data can be gleaned from the city's charter institutions.
Waukesha's report card performance puts it towards the top of Wisconsin's large districts, but these public schools still rate out at a "C" average overall. While a handful of these institutions earn strong grades, none met the standards to "Significantly Exceed Expectations" on DPI's metric. On the other hand, none of Waukesha's schools ended up on the other side of that spectrum with a failing grade.
This data shows that there is still work to be done in Waukesha, even in the district's highest-performing schools. The city can't afford to rest on a "C" grade when it comes to providing a quality education for its students.