Many school districts have had concerns with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on learning. With Wisconsin Department of Instruction district report card results looming, there were concerns from districts how those results may have been impacted because of the pandemic.

After the embargo on the report card results was lifted, those fears came true in the Marshall School District.

“No one is satisfied with our student assessment scores,” Superintendent Dan Grady said at the Nov. 17 school board meeting.

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.

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.

Overall as a district, Marshall had a score of 54.

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.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPI urged using caution when interpreting scores and ratings.

The high school received an overall score of 47.9, which “fails to meet expectations.” For achievement, the high school scored a 43.9. In English language arts, achievement was 49.5, below the state average of 61.3. The disparity was even more present in math. The district scored a 38.3 for math, below the state average of 55.5.

In growth, the high school scored a 42.3. The English language arts score in growth was 43.2, off from the state mark that was at 66. In math, the high school scored a 41.3, off from the state mark, which was also 66.

The middle school also failed to meet expectations with an overall score of 40.7. In achievement, the school had a score of 52.9 overall. In English language arts, the school had a 58.3, comparable to the 62.4 of the state. The school’s math score was comparable to that of the state. That was 47.4 compared to 56.

In growth, the middle school scored a 20.4. In English language arts, the school had a 33.7, compared to 66 for the state. Math was at 7.1.

The Early Learning Center received an “alternate rating,” and its report card indicated that it “needs improvement” and a “star rating (was) not applicable.”

However, there were positives.

The elementary school had an overall score of 76.8. In achievement, the school scored 52.7, which included a 50.4 score for English language arts. The state average was 60.5. In math, the district scored a 54.9. The state average was 66.8.

In growth, the elementary school scored 83.1. In English language arts, the school had an 85, which is well above the state average of 66. In math, growth was at 81.2, also considerably higher than the state average of 66.

Marshall was in the first year of a three-year term last year hosting the Jefferson Eastern Dane Interactive (JEDI) Virtual School, which has students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Even if those students are studying in another district, since Marshall is the host site all of those students are enrolled into the Marshall School District.

The JEDI Virtual School received an overall score of 69.1, which “meets expectations.” It scored a 66 in achievement with a 72.4 score in English language arts and 59.5 in math. In growth, it scored a 65.1 overall with scores of 69.8 in English language arts and 60.3 in math.

In the on-track to graduation category, JEDI scored a 79.7 overall. Chronic absenteeism was scored at 96.3. Graduation was scored at 67.8. Third grade English language arts was at 68.2 and eighth grade math was at 72.7.

Grady, when discussing the results with the school board Nov. 17, prompted board members to look at the data from the report card results and ask questions at the next school board meeting.

“Our focus is on Dec. 1 when we have more of a drilled down discussion on the results,” Grady said.

Grady stressed that 2020-21 was an unusual year with an unprecedented Tuesday-through-Friday remote teaching schedule.

“I think one of my takeaways pandemic teaching and learning was really difficult. We didn’t have students in-person. That was really difficult. I’m not making excuses, but again I think our scores reflect the importance of those day-to-day interactions with our teachers,” Grady said. “I think lack of in-person had something to do with those scores. I’m not making excuses.”

Grady prompted school board members to use the days following the Nov. 17 meeting to develop questions.

“Our focus is on Dec. 1, we have a more drilled-down discussion about the data,” said Grady, referring to the next occasion in which the board will have a formal meeting.

Board President Debbie Frigo encouraged questions from the board go to Grady as soon as possible with the intent Grady would be ready Dec. 1 to engage in discussion about school report card results.

“As Dr. Grady said, we’re not satisfied with these results and we need to get to the bottom of how we can move forward,” Frigo said.

“I think I’ve said it multiple times that our kids are doing the best they can,” Grady said. “Our teachers are doing the best they can. Our parents are providing and doing the best they can. Yet, the district, as Debbie said, we’re not satisfied with the student achievement.” It’s our job to make changes. No one’s broken. We have to make adjustments.”

Grady distributed a letter to families, board members and media outlets earlier in the day regarding the results.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decline in student test participation rates, both at the state and local level, it is important to be cautious when comparing current scores across multiple years or interpreting ratings,” Grady wrote in the letter. “The data is, however, an opportunity for the district to refocus efforts on student growth and achievement. Moving forward, the district will continue to realign curriculum, strengthen instructional approaches and update assessment practices.”

Recommended for you