School officials not happy with latest report card

Board members want to see improvement
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Shawano School District officials are not happy with their overall results in the 2017 report cards sent out last month by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The district received 64.1 points out of a possible 100 on its report card, indicating it meets the state standards. All of the individual schools except for Shawano Community Middle School also received three-star ratings; SCMS earned a two-star rating.

The Shawano School Board had approved school improvement plans earlier this year that include the goal of raising the district’s rating to four stars by 2021. To do that, the district’s overall score will need to go up more than two full points each year, according to Kelley Strike, the district’s assessment coordinator.

This year’s score was down 0.7 points from last year.

Four criteria make up the district’s overall score: student achievement, student growth, on-track and post-secondary readiness, and closing gaps. The weight of each criterion varies depending on the school, Strike said.

Where the district lost points was in the middle school’s closing gaps through the state’s Forward assessment, Strike said, with a score of 46 points in that category compared with 58 points on the 2016 report card. The state determines a score based on how well gaps are closed in racial, disability, English language learner and socio-economic groups.

“All those factors are looked at when they consider growth,” Strike said.

The SCMS overall score of 60.3 was down 6.5 points from 2016.

Board member Michael Sleeper commented that the overall district score sliding down might be an acceptable margin of error, but it did not help the school district when it is trying to improve its overall education from a three-star rating to a four-star rating.

“The mathematic scores are troubling. The student achievement and student growth are well below the state average,” Sleeper said. “We have one school that is in the ‘meets few expectations.’ We are not where we need to be.”

Sleeper said it was particularly dismaying that he’d heard kudos from community members about the district’s latest budget lowering the tax rate, but he’d heard from no one outside of the schools about the district’s latest report card.

“We have a serious community issue,” Sleeper said. “What can we do, starting today, to address these issues?”

Board member Rich Belongia said his experience was the opposite of Sleeper’s in that he’d heard from community members about the report cards.

“It’s troubling, but it isn’t just these scores,” Belongia said. “This is one big machine, and every little part has to work properly. We have to work on the foundation, work on the middle part and work on the top end. We have one of the best schools in the state. We have a well-oiled machine, but we have some rusty parts.”

Board member Derek Johnson was not as worried as some of his colleagues.

“That could be a blip,” Johnson said. “They could have had bad food in the cafeteria that day or something, and they didn’t do as well on the test.”

He noted that a way to improve test scores is to show how important the exams are, not only for the school and the district’s well being, but for the student, as well.

“If the kids are not really interested or think, I’m not going to go anywhere, the test scores are not going to change by a significant amount,” Johnson said. “We need to focus on that group.”