Monday, October 22, 2012

The School District of Janesville ~ School Report Cards Are In!

Wisconsin has a new school accountability system and school report cards.  The school report cards signal a new era of school accountability that honors the complex work of schools and focuses on making sure students graduate ready for college and career. The average accountability score (from each of the school report cards) places the School District of Janesville in the “Exceeds Expectations” standing with an average score of 74.5.
Overall Accountability Scores for schools in the School District of Janesville were positive.  Sixteen out of 17 schools met, exceeded or significantly exceeded expectations.  Harrison, Roosevelt and Kennedy significantly exceeded expectations, the highest distinction available.  

Each year, schools will receive report cards that will give them one of five accountability ratings.  These ratings will be based on a score from these four priority areas: 

1.      Student Achievement in reading and mathematics on state assessments
o   All three Janesville middle schools, eight elementary schools and one high school met or exceeded expectations in this priority area.  Roosevelt, Harrison and Kennedy scored more than 10 points higher than the state average.

2.      Student Growth measured by year-to-year improvements in achievement
o   Eleven out of twelve Janesville elementary schools and two middle schools were above the state average in this priority area.  Roosevelt, Harrison, Kennedy, Lincoln and Jefferson scores were 17 to 20 points above the state average, placing them in the significantly exceeds expectations rating category. 

3.   Closing Gaps in performance between specific students groups (comparing English Language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities and members of racial or ethnic groups with their peers).
o   All three middle schools, ten elementary schools and one high school met or exceeded expectations in the priority area Closing Gaps. Harrison scored 21.2 points above the state, and Kennedy scored 12.9 points above the state. Both schools narrowed the achievement gap in reading and math with all subgroups that met cell size. Harrison was given the rating category of significantly exceeds expectations. 

4.     On-Track to Graduation and Postsecondary Readiness using reliable predictors of high school graduation and postsecondary success.
o   All Janesville schools exceeded expectations in this priority area.  Fourteen schools scored in the significantly exceeds expectations rating category. 

The report cards, that will be made public on Monday, October 22, 2012, place an important value on integrating information used to tell the public the progress schools are making and gives direction to schools about ways they can improve student learning.  In short, the new system is designed to be both informative and useful.

Based on how well schools perform in the priority areas, schools will receive an accountability score on a 0-100 scale and its associated accountability rating.  The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will recognize high performing schools as “Rewards Schools” and work to disseminate their best practices to struggling schools across the state of Wisconsin.

The School District of Janesville’s overall strongest area of strength was “On-Track and Postsecondary Readiness.”  Part of the calculation for this area includes student attendance rates.  Student learning is enhanced when they have positive school attendance.  High School graduation rate and ACT participation/performance are used in the calculation for this priority area.

Another area of strength was the “Student Growth” category.  Student growth has been an important goal for the School District of Janesville, especially in reading and math.  During the 2011-12 school year, Common Curriculum Based Assessments (CBAs) were used in reading and math to monitor student progress. These are classroom and teacher designed assessments that align with the Common Core State Standards, which Wisconsin adopted in 2010.  The CBAs are also common throughout all schools for each grade level.  By continuously monitoring student achievement, teachers are able to teach to mastery as well as re-teach concepts that students are struggling with sooner.  CBAs also measure student performance of district written curriculum. 

To increase focus on improving reading achievement, teachers participated in a summer Reading Institute, where the new “Reading Blueprint” was shared.  By following the blueprint for reading instruction, schools ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum for students.  In addition, all subject areas were introduced to a reading blueprint that focuses on disciplinary literacy, ensuring that students are applying reading skills across the curriculum.

In order to improve feedback and parent communication, elementary schools are launching the new Standards-Based Report Card this year.  The standards in reading, math, and language are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.  Assessing each student throughout a range of standards creates a more specific system for communicating student progress and growth.  The grading scale for elementary has been updated to align with the more rigorous standards put forth by the state.  These projects have been on the forefront of the focus on student growth in Janesville.

School staff in Janesville are working on creating culturally responsive classrooms.  Culturally responsive education recognizes, respects and uses students' identities and backgrounds as meaningful sources (Nieto, 2000) for creating optimal learning environments.  Another effort in closing achievement gaps has been made through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).  PBIS applies evidence-based research, practices, and strategies for all students to increase academic performance, improve safety, decrease problem behavior and establish a positive school culture (WI Department of Education, 2012).

The new school report card is the face of Wisconsin’s new accountability system.  The accountability index (total score) and the report card itself are designed not only to provide the public with vital information about their schools but also to give schools practical, constructive direction for investigating performance issues and designing effective school improvement strategies.  The School District of Janesville requires each school to build a School Improvement Plan that details efforts to make sure all students achieve.  The current results validate the success of those efforts and help schools to better pinpoint areas for improvement. 

We believe that the first round of new accountability scores for the district are very positive.  Traditionally, the district scores have hovered at or slightly below the state average.  Recent scores during the past three years have generated improved results where the district is performing at or above the state average.  We are proud of our efforts to date and look forward to for each school to improve their school score next year. 

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