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Wisconsin's new school accountability system: school report cards

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has developed a new School Report Card for each public school. This new report card uses multiple measures of student learning including: student achievement on standardized tests; student growth measures or the amount of knowledge and skills gained from year to year for students; closing learning gaps for students within identified groupings such as students with disabilities, low income, racial or ethnic groups and more; and finally a measure for students being on-track for graduation and postsecondary readiness.

Each public school will be given a "score" on a scale between 0 and 100. The score translates into an overall rating that ranges from Fails to Meet Expectations to Significantly Exceeds Expectations. All of Hudson's schools have ratings at or above Meeting Expectations.

This new School Report Card will be posted online and have significant differences from the previous state accountability system. As part of the state initiative to increase student learning expectations in reading and math, the state standardized test (WKCE) will be scored differently from previous years. Cut scores or benchmarks which are used to determine whether a student is achieving at a proficient or advanced level have been moved significantly higher. The result of these new higher cut scores is students must demonstrate a greater knowledge and understanding of the test questions in order to score at these levels than they did under the previous scoring system. This does not reflect changes in the ability or performance of students, but rather higher expectations that have been set for them and schools. With these new cut scores, significantly fewer students across the state will rank at the proficient and advanced levels. Student test results will impact the overall School Report Card score and rating.

In addition to the standardized test portion of the School Report Card, schools are scored based on their effectiveness in closing learning gaps between the entire student population and identified groups. These groups include low-income students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students from specific racial and ethnic groups. Schools receive credit for increasing the test performance and graduation rates for students in these targeted groups. The overall goal is to raise expectations and achievement results for all students. Although some of these specific groups are small in number in Hudson, this is an area where we need to continue to focus improvement efforts.

Wisconsin's new School Report Cards are one way to look at student learning results. These report cards consider specific indicators. It is important to keep in mind that they are not the only indicators of student success, school performance and quality. The district's Advanced Placement (AP) participation and results, the academic program, extended learning opportunities for students, and the co-curricular program are other important factors that are not present in this new accountability system. Neither is the strength of the school's teachers, administrators, and support staff who work together to create a learning environment and caring culture that supports students achieving at higher levels.

The new School Report Card is more complicated than it looks on the surface and should be viewed over time, not as a one-time comparison from this year to last year only. These reports will provide a new way to look at school data. They will highlight areas of strength and areas for improvement in a different way from the previous state testing system. As in Hudson, public schools across the state will need time to study the new system and the data it values in order to determine where to focus improvement efforts.

The Hudson Schools and the new School Report Cards both support higher learning expectations for students. The district is already on its way to meet higher statewide expectations. Twenty-first century "common core" standards in reading and math that are nationally recognized and have higher learning expectations are now being implemented. The district is in its sixth year of SMART goals that stretch student and staff learning and outcomes. Our teachers work collaboratively to review timely student data, so that student learning needs can be addressed right away. While state accountability is changing, the district's collaborative system for learning will provide the means for teachers and administrators to learn from the School Report Card data and set goals that result in higher levels of learning for all Hudson students.

A link to the new School Report Cards and more information are available on the district's website at