When you consider all the money Monona Grove taxpayers have agreed to pump into the school system, we’re still not getting much bang for our bucks.

The Department of Public Instruction released its 2018-19 school district report cards earlier this month, and many of MG’s marks were disappointing.

The district overall earned a four-star “Exceeds Expectations” rating, but its 75.8-point score was closer to three stars than four. Almost half of all 421 districts in the state got the same ranking.

Unlike in past years, no MG school got the five-star, “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” rating, although Winnequah Elementary, at 82.9 points, was just a tenth of a point off.

But the percentage of Winnequah students who scored “advanced” or “proficient” in English slipped from 62.8 percent three years ago to just 57.4 percent last year.

Yes, that’s above the state average – but the state average isn’t very high.

According to the DPI, “proficient” students “demonstrate adequate understanding of and ability to apply the knowledge and skills for their grade level,” while “advanced” students show “thorough understanding” of material for their grade level.

DPI adds the percentages of proficient and advanced students to find the total percent of students considered “at or above grade level.”

What that means is that more than 40 percent of Winnequah students are below grade level in reading and writing.

In math, Winnequah students were better: Almost 68 percent scored at or above grade level.

Cottage Grove Elementary, which also previously had a five-star rating, scored 81.9 points. But the percentage of students in the advanced-proficient range in English plunged from 60.8 percent three years ago to 48.5 last year.

The school’s math score also took a hit, dropping from 67 percent at or above grade level three years ago (and almost 72 percent in 2017-18) to just under 60 percent last year – a 12-point decline.

Glacial Drumlin Middle School continues to be the district’s poorest-performing school, with a three-star “Meets Expectations” score of 72.6, just three-tenths of a point out of four stars.

In English, only 53 percent of students tested at or above grade level, down seven points from three years ago.

The middle school’s math score was 50 percent advanced or proficient, up slightly from last year.

Still, half of all students are below grade level. Am I the only one who finds that unacceptable?

The high school scored a four-star rating with 78.5 points. In English, 60 percent scored advanced or proficient, down almost four points from three years ago.

Math scores were worse: Only 48 percent scored at or above grade level, down five points from 2016-17. And the percentage of students scoring at the lowest level, “below basic,” rose from 14 percent three years ago to almost 22 percent last year.

That’s one in five students who can’t do high school math.

By the way, the University of Wisconsin System tracks the number of students from every district who need remedial classes when they get to college. Of the MG grads enrolled in UW System schools in Fall 2018, almost 14 percent had to take remedial math.

All four schools received below-average scores in closing achievement gaps, which accounts for 25 percent of the district’s overall score.

With fewer than 20 black students at the high school, last year’s racial achievement gap could not be determined. In 2017-18, more than 66 percent of black students performed below grade level.

Last year, almost 60 percent of Hispanic students, 66 percent of “economically disadvantaged” students and 90 percent of students with disabilities performed below grade level.

I asked MG district officials for comment on our falling test scores, but they didn’t get back to me before deadline.

But one area where the district excels is taxpayer generosity: Out of 421 districts, MG’s “equalized levy rate” of $13.15 for every $1,000 of property value is fifth highest – up from last year, when we only ranked eighth.

The MG school levy rate lags only Shorewood ($14.07), Pepin ($13.82), Brown Deer $13.77) and Laona ($13.73.)

(I am not including the Norris School District in Mukwanago, because its tax rate of $49.32 is an anomaly. The district has one school, a specialized 32-bed adolescent residential treatment facility.)

Of the four more expensive districts, only Shorewood got a five-star “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” rating from DPI.

Maybe the rest of us just aren’t paying enough – yet.

Got something Sunny Schubert should know? Call her at 222-1604 or e-mail sunschu16@gmail.com.

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