State accountability system flags 10 Madison schools for poor minority-student achievement

2012-06-06T18:00:00Z 2012-06-29T13:47:04Z State accountability system flags 10 Madison schools for poor minority-student achievementMATTHEW DeFOUR | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6144

Ten Madison schools and five others in Dane County have been identified among the lowest performers in the state in terms of low-income and minority student achievement under a new statewide school accountability system.

The Department of Public Instruction developed the system — which identifies schools as "focus" and "priority" — to obtain a waiver from requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which for the past decade has resulted in sanctions for certain schools.

The Madison schools identified as "focus" schools are Allis, Falk, Lakeview, Leopold, Midvale/Lincoln, Lowell, Orchard Ridge, Sandburg, Schenk and Thoreau elementaries. Other local "focus" schools include West Middleton Elementary in Middleton-Cross Plains, Bird Elementary in Sun Prairie, and Badger Ridge Middle, and Glacier Edge and Sugar Creek elementaries in Verona.

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad, in a letter Tuesday to parents at the affected schools, said "the district is still learning the full details and impact on schools."

On Wednesday, Nerad said the district's current approach to closing the achievement gap should address the system's new requirements.

Rosita Gonzalez, president of the Thoreau Elementary parent teacher organization, said the letter was frustrating.

"It's disheartening to say you're a 'focus school' and put a brand on the school," Gonzalez said. "How do you explain that to the public?"

Nerad's letter said the designation is based partly on student achievement, student growth, closing achievement gaps and on-track graduation and post-secondary readiness, but DPI spokesman John Johnson clarified that the designation is solely based on state test scores and 2011 graduation rates.

A separate statewide accountability system that will include numerical ratings for all schools in the state will be based on those other factors, Johnson said. Those ratings are expected to be reported to school districts later this month.

Typically schools that receive Title I funds would be notified about now as to whether they met federal standards. In 2011-12, students at Leopold Elementary School received free transportation to other schools as a sanction for subpar test scores. Leopold also had to offer students free tutoring.

That system is being replaced by the "priority" and "focus" system pending waiver approval, Johnson said.

Out of 1,183 Title I schools in Wisconsin, 58 — none in Dane County — were identified as "priority" schools, meaning they have the lowest percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on math and reading tests. Those schools must implement reforms such as adding 300 hours of instruction to the school year and improving parental involvement.

Another 118 schools were identified as "focus" schools. They constitute the bottom 10 percent based on a formula that considers state test scores among certain subgroups, such as minority and low-income students, and achievement gaps in test scores and graduation rates.

Those schools must implement one of three systems to improve student achievement and will receive training and assistance from DPI and others. The schools will fall under the designation for four years, Johnson said.

State officials accelerated implementation of the new rating systems by one year to improve their waiver chances.

But Republicans are concerned the system has changed from what a bipartisan committee agreed to earlier this year, said Sarah Archibald, an aide to Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Gov. Scott Walker originally wanted to assign letter grades to schools, but the committee agreed to a 100-point scale. Johnson said the rating system isn't finalized but DPI is considering both 100-point and 400-point scales.

[Editor's note: Lincoln Elementary School was not subject to sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law this past school year. This story originally reported incorrectly that the school was required to offer students free transportation to attend other schools in 2011-12. The school last offered free transportation in 2010-11.]

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(9) Comments

  1. Shorety
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    Shorety - June 09, 2012 4:37 pm
    The solutions lie with the parents. Schools cannot make up for lack of parenting and it's not fair, or realistic, to try to make them do so. It won't work. Black achievement would improve if black culture valued education.
  2. kwise
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    kwise - June 08, 2012 12:59 pm
    If these designations are indeed based on achievement gaps, it isn't a surprise that a school like Thoreau would be on the list. Thoreau is a FABULOUS school - amazing teachers, a tremendous PTA, fabulous principal. But the school straddles two very different areas: one with fairly wealthy people (Nakoma), and one with families more likely to be struggling (Allied drive, etc). So if these designations are based on gaps, Thoreau will just naturally have gaps based on their geography. This doesn't mean they shouldn't work their butts off at Thoreau to close the gap - but I hope being a "focus" school doesn't create a stigma for Thoreau that isn't deserved.
  3. JohnGalt2016
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    JohnGalt2016 - June 08, 2012 12:00 pm
    Teachers you need to stop blaming others & get to work. The poor ratings are compared to other like schools.
  4. mothermade
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    mothermade - June 07, 2012 9:36 pm
    While I realize that politics plays a part in the invention of this system, please also realize and respect that we are talking about people here, not just numbers. Looking at the scores doesn't tell you the struggles these kids have outside of the school building. Taking a standardized test (in English) when your native language is Spanish puts a student immediately at a disadvantage. Also, struggles at home can influence a student's ability to concentrate when taking a test. Try building more community in our schools. Take care of one another. Show compassion. That helps not only the children but struggling families as well. Also, pertaining to the comment about minority students in private school, I suspect the reason they are in private school speaks to the commitment to education and stability at home. Rather than placing blame, let's talk about solutions.
  5. boomer
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    boomer - June 07, 2012 4:05 pm
    That's why there has to be a merit pay system for teachers. You need to make the teachers responsible for doing their jobs. Just because you show up each day doesn't mean you are EARNING your pay check. Why is it that minority students excel in private and charter schools? I'll tell you, the teachers there care more about the kids education than running out to protest every time their little egos get bruised. The tax payers are on to the teachers unions and the day of judgement is coming for MTI.
  6. historygal99
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    historygal99 - June 06, 2012 8:35 pm
    I understand that Archibald,, are upset for their own reasons. But the Superintendent of Public Instruction is a separate constitutional office. You can't micromanage everything from the Capitol Building.
  7. Buckyz
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    Buckyz - June 06, 2012 8:26 pm
    Agreed 100%. Let's leave the teachers out of this. Their only requirement should be to show up and collect a paycheck.
  8. jonas
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    jonas - June 06, 2012 7:42 pm
    Need to have more community and parental accountability to truly have a successful educational system.

    Would you also highlight the names of schools which are excelling in minority-student achievement in Madison?
  9. retired
    Report Abuse
    retired - June 06, 2012 6:44 pm
    The kids get out what they put into it. This structure starts in the home.
    Don't blame the teachers, they teach, the child has to want to learn. This brings us right back to structure.

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