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Pride was overflowing in the Waterloo School District last week as the embargo on district report card scores was lifted.
As many districts across the state faced stagnant or even scores that fell and didn’t meet expectations, Waterloo schools met and exceeded expectations at all levels.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Nov. 16 published public and choice school district report cards for the 2020-21 school year. The report cards were not issued last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report cards are part of the DPI’s accountability system and available to view online at the organization’s website.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPI urged using caution when interpreting scores and ratings.
A school or district’s overall accountability score places the school/district into one of five overall accountability ratings. Those include significantly exceeds expectations, 83 to 100 range; exceeds expectations, 70 to 82.9; meets expectations, 58 to 69.9; meets few expectations, 48 to 57.9; and fails to meet expectations, 0 to 47.9.
In 2018-2019, about 96% of the districts met expectations or performed better than expected.
Scores are calculated on achievement, growth, target group outcomes, and how well students are on-track to graduation. Achievement summarizes how the district’s students performed on state assessment testing. The score is a multi-year average of English language arts and mathematics subscores.
Growth measures year-to-year student progress on statewide tests for English language arts and mathematics. It uses a value-added model to control for circumstances beyond the influence of educators. A high valued-added score means that on average students in the district quicker than other similar students.
Target group examines outcomes for students with the lowest test scores. It is designed to promote equity by helping districts focus on learners who need the most support while improving outcomes for all students. The score combines achievement, growth, chronic absenteeism, and graduation rate.
On-track to graduation indicates how students are progressing toward completing their K-12 education. The score is a combination of student engagement and achievement.
By law, the larger the percentage of school or district’s students who are economically disadvantaged, the more the growth measure contributes to its overall score. According to the DPI, this allows schools and districts to be rewarded for advancing students’ progress regardless of their starting level. If there is insufficient data to calculate a priority area score, the measure is omitted and the remaining measures weight more heavily in the overall score.
The district overall scored a 69, which meets expectations. It scored a 77.4 in growth in English language arts, which is higher than the state average of 66. It scored a 64.1 in mathematics, which near the state average of 66.
In the on-track to graduation category, the district scored an 84.9 overall, which is above the state average of 87.
The high school jumped out, as it scored a 74.4, which exceeds expectations.
“When we saw it we were extremely proud of students and staff, especially the students considering the last year and a half,” High School Principal Shawn Bartelt said.
Achievement was at 53.3 overall. By subject, English language arts was at 59, which was just off from the state average of 61.3. Mathematics was at 47.6. The state average was 55.5.
Growth far exceeded the state average. The school scored an overall 80.3. In English language arts, the school had an 81.2, above the state average of 66.
“We scored higher than 82 percent of other students in the state,” Bartelt said. “It’s awesome, especially considering last year.
In mathematics, it was 79.3, above the state average of 66.
Staff members have focused on both academics and social-emotional learning, which Bartelt said was a big part of this success. There are always high expectations, but the staff also continues to look for support systems for students so they are successful in the classroom.
One advantage the district had is students were able to stay in classrooms through much of 2020-21. While many districts still had primarily virtual instruction last year, the district had both in-person and virtual instruction.
“I think the main piece of why there was not a drop is we were able to keep our doors open with the mitigation process. Students could come in if needed,” Bartelt said.
Bartelt credited the teachers because of the unusual instructional methods they had to use last year because of the pandemic. They had use in-person and virtual instruction simultaneously throughout the entire school year.
“No one went to school to teach like that and they picked it up very fast,” Bartelt said. “What’s also important is the students bought into what we were offering,” Bartelt said.
Bartelt also credited flex time, which is when students are able to go ask for help of teachers if they need it.
The high school also incentivized time outside the facility as well, including with open campus if students qualified with high grades.
Bartelt said teachers have worked on building relationships with students, and said that helped the growth.
“The staff has been going above and beyond with building those relationships,” Bartelt said. “In order to do well in school, students need to want to come to school, and that’s happening through those relationships being built. And, there’s a reason for that. Our parking lot gets packed by 7 a.m. and those teachers are still here at 4:30. The time the teachers have put in has been amazing.”
“What staff has done in terms of growth is awesome. It’s crucial to the success,” Bartelt said. It’s important to have direct reflection on that,” Bartelt said.
The reflection continues to happen on both positive and negative results, Bartelt said.
That reflection includes looking at teaching methods for what works and what doesn’t, but also results on ACT scores and individual report cards. Bartelt said the growth mindset is huge for student success.
“Those tell us what we can improve on and how we should adjust according to that,” Bartelt said.
On-track to graduation was at 94.8.
At the elementary school, there was an overall score of 60.1, which meets expectations. In achievement, it scored a 53. When broken down by subject, English language arts was 47.3. The state average was 60.5.
In Mathematics, the school scored a 58.6. The state average was 66.8. In growth, the elementary school scored a 51.8. In English language arts, the school scored a 54.6. The state average was 66. In mathematics, it was 48.9. The state average was 66.
In the on-track to graduation category, the school scored 84.
“I am extremely proud of all of our students, teachers and staff,” Elementary Principal Elizabeth Gould said. “Last year posed many challenges due to COVID.”
She said the scores indicate that the community values education.
“My recurring message last year was, ‘All hands on deck.’ Teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents and babysitters helped virtual learners as well as in person learners,” Gould said. “Our district offered learning models to suit the needs of all students in the district.”
“This position is incredibly important,” Gould said. “I believe engaging our families and community will only strengthen our students’ academic performances.”
Christine Ziemann, the middle school and intermediate principal, said the news of the high scores was exciting. This is her first year in the district, but she is also focused on building on the scores.
“The plan is to really clarify the essential standards and focus achievement,” Ziemann said.
On the intermediate level in grades five and six, the district had a score of 63, which meets expectations.
In achievement, it scored 52.1 in English language arts. The state average was 60.5. In mathematics, the school scored 49. The state was average was at 66.8.
In growth, the school scored a 58.4. Broken down by subject, in English language arts the school scored a 69.8, which was above the state average of 66. In mathematics, the school had a 47. The state average was 66.
In the on-track to graduation category, the school scored a 94.7.
Other area school districts
Lake Mills Elementary School, which has a total enrollment of 626 students, had an overall score of 72.7. The school has an achievement score of 71.0, growth score of 60.3 and an on-track to graduation score of 91.2. There are no target group outcome scores for elementary school. The 4K through fourth grade students housed in the building has a population that includes 13.6% who are disabled, 28.9% that are economically disadvantaged, and 5.3% who are English language learners.
Watertown Unified School District, with 3,296 students, received an overall score of 69.1.
The district has 16.5% of its students with disabilities, 47.8% are economically disadvantaged and 5.5% are English language learners.
Achievement was 57.4, growth 66.9, target group incomes 634 and on-track to graduation 85.7.
The Johnson Creek School District received an overall score of 70.1, with 13.1% of its 567 students with disabilities, 27.3% economically disadvantaged and 4.9% English learners.
The district received a score of 58.6 for achievement, 69.8 for growth, 66.1 for target group outcomes and 88 for on-track to graduation.
Jefferson School District received a 66.0 overall score which meets expectations.
The district has 1,806 students of which 16.8% have disabilities, 38.2% are economically disadvantaged and 6.9% are English learners.
The report card indicated an achievement score of 61.2, growth of 63.2, target group outcomes of 54.4 and on-track to graduation at 84.9.
Fort Atkinson School District with 2,652 students had an overall rate of 68.9.
The district has 16% of its students with disabilities, 37.6% economically disadvantaged and 6.1% English language learners. According to the DPI, the district had a score of 65.3 in achievement, 63.2 in growth, 60 target group outcomes and 87.4 on-track to graduation.