It's the end of the fall semester and kids will get their report cards soon. Most of them will probably say their teachers and schools should be graded too. Well, for the first time they have in fact been graded, though it's probably not the sort of scoring most kids would have in mind. This past November, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) began releasing its first-ever evaluation results, the so-called school report cards, for every district.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that after 164 years or so of the "Wisconsin Idea," the provision in the state constitution spreading education to its literal and figurative borders, schools throughout the state attained generally favorable ratings. Madison and other capital region schools passed with flying colors. As the MMSD (Madison Metropolitan School District) notes on its website, "The good news is that the vast majority of our schools meet or exceed expectations, and no school fails to meet expectations, according to the state." For 2010-11, the most recent year in the study, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District emerged the clear local winner, ranking higher than all their neighbors. Congratulations to all Middleton and Cross Plains teachers, parents, and students attending schools in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District!
The DPI report cards grade schools in four categories: Student classroom achievement; student growth; post-secondary readiness, including graduation rates; and closing achievement gaps for disadvantaged and disabled students. It's not all for show. State financial support for districts will be based in part on those scores.
The success of area schools showed up indirectly in two other recent events. In the recent elections, the vast majority of school levies on ballots for districts throughout the region won voter approval for increased spending (and small class sizes), despite the economy. It looks like Wisconsin voters respect and value their schools. Then on December 11, the DPI issued a press release noting a recent survey shows the state to have among the most used library systems in the nation -- just another sign that public education really is working in Wisconsin.Jolenta Averill on