MacIver News Service | December 18, 2012
Wisconsin’s third-largest district earns a “C” in first-round of state’s new grading system[Madison, Wisc…] Kenosha, home of Wisconsin’s third-largest school district, had its public schools rated as meeting expectations – the equivalent of a “C” grade – in the first year of the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) school accountability report cards. A small network of charter schools buoyed this performance; all five of these graded institutions posted above-average marks.
The average public school in Kenosha earned 68.27 points out of 100 on DPI’s newly developed grading scale. That was enough to put the district right in the middle of the state’s “Meets Expectations” range. Like the other districts that we’ve studied, Milwaukee, Madison, and Racine, Kenosha’s grade was lifted by a strong performance in the On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness category. It was the only category in which the city scored more than 64 points.
The district’s charter schools raised this average. Kenosha has six schools that are labeled as charter institutions by the Department of Public Instruction. Five of them had available grades from 2011-2012. These schools posted a higher average score in all four categories, climbing above the statewide average and rating out at “Exceeds Expectations” on the state’s metric. On an “A-F” grading scale, that would give these schools a “B” grade.
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.
In Kenosha, none of the 42 schools earned a “Significantly Exceeds Expectations,” or “A” grade, though three institutions came close by earning ratings higher than 80. Ten schools earned “B” grades in all; Brompton School, Charles Nash Elementary, Dimensions of Learning Academy, KTEC, Pleasant Prairie, Prairie Lane, Roosevelt, and Summers Elementary Schools, Paideia Academy and Lakeview Technology Academy. None of Kenosha’s public schools earned failing grades.
As we have seen in Milwaukee, Racine and Madison, Kenosha’s schools tended to fare worse on the new state report cards as students grew older. Scores for the city’s high schools were worse than the scores for the district’s elementary and middle schools. However, this disparity – which was significant in Milwaukee and Racine – is limited in Kenosha. Scores dropped by only .4 between elementary and middle schools, and then by less than three points between elementary and high schools.
We have found that in other Wisconsin districts, data for student growth at the high school level was not available. It is 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.
Of the state’s four largest school districts, Kenosha Unified falls just two points behind Madison Metropolitan for top billing. The city outperforms both Milwaukee and Racine by a significant margin. However, the district still only scores in the “C/C+” range as a whole, and fails to place any of its individual schools in the highest performing category.
That is a solid performance for a large city, but there is still much work to be done. The ratings for Kenosha’s charter schools and the lack of failing schools provide a solid foundation for future improvements. Though the district lags behind the state average, the cohesion between elementary, middle and high schools, as well as the strong showing from alternative public education programs, suggest that stronger performances may only be a few reforms away.