Wednesday, September 17, 2014

      The Journey to Excellence Continues to Show Dividends

       2013-14 School Report Card Scores

Six years ago, the School District of Janesville embarked on a district wide effort focused on raising student achievement titled, Journey to Excellence.  On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released the third set of School Report Card Scores and this is the second year that report cards for all 424 districts have been released. This year, the School District of Janesville ranked #2 of the 10 largest school districts in the State of Wisconsin.  With an accountability score of 72.8, the district is in the meets expectations category.  These ratings are based on scores from four priority areas: 
        Student Achievement in reading and mathematics on state assessments;
        Student Growth measured by year-to-year improvements in achievement;
    Closing Gaps in performance between specific student groups (comparing English Language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities, and members of racial or ethnic groups with their peers);
      On-Track to Graduation and Postsecondary Readiness using reliable predictors of high school graduation and postsecondary success.

Based on how well schools perform in the priority areas, schools and districts receive an accountability score on a 0-100 scale and its associated accountability rating.  All schools scored in the Meets Expectations category or higher.  Kennedy, Madison, Monroe, Roosevelt, Van Buren, and Washington Elementary Schools, as well as Craig High School, scored in the Exceeds Expectations category.  Harrison Elementary scored in the Significantly Exceeds Expectations category for the third year in a row, the highest distinction possible.

The School District of Janesville saw an increase in its Student Achievement score with increases in both math and reading—out-scoring the state by almost four points in the student achievement category.  Fourteen out of the seventeen schools also showed an increase in student achievement, including both high schools.

Wilson Elementary continues to demonstrate a strong record of improvement over the past three years and only missed the Exceeds Expectations category by two-tenths of a point. Wilson also saw increases of over five points in the sub-categories of student achievement, student growth, and closing gaps.  These results are noteworthy because the student body at Wilson represents the highest number of economically disadvantaged in the district at nearly 90%.  While the district refuses to treat poverty as an excuse for moving student achievement forward, it does recognize the special attention and increased effort required of school personnel at high poverty schools to post positive gains.  Dr. Schulte, Superintendent of Schools, believes that Wilson Principal, Kim Peerenboom, and the school staff make Wilson a poster school for excellence in the district.  “Mrs. Peerenboom’s energy, dedication, and careful planning, as well as her uncompromising belief that all students can learn and achieve has inspired the staff to create a “special magic” that is showing remarkable student learning results.” Mrs. Peerenboom was named one of the district’s 2014 School Administrators of the Year for the School District of Janesville.

The success story continues with the recent announcement that four district schools will be recognized as Schools of Recognition this fall in the state capital.  These schools are Madison (4th year in a row), Jackson Elementary (3rd year in a row), Jefferson Elementary (2nd year in a row), and Edison Middle School, a 2nd time.  This award is given to schools who have demonstrated success in educating students from low-income families.

Comparative data indicates the School District of Janesville ranked 2nd in Rock County, only three tenths of a point behind Evansville Community School District.  The poverty rates for Janesville are nearly double that of Evansville.  Last year, the School District was # 1 in Rock County.  The DPI has cautioned against comparing previous district results because scores were calculated differently this year.  

Dr. Schulte credits the district’s adoption of Evidence-Based Leadership (EBL) as a key foundational change that is pivotal to the positive report card results.  EBL causes school leaders to analyze key student learning indicators and then develop a School Improvement Plan to guide student and staff with the achievement targets.  Each year school staff have refined the process and increased student engagement with the specific learning targets.    

Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Director for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, adds that the use of curriculum-based assessments (that measure ongoing learning throughout the school year) is a powerful tool for keeping student learning on target, thereby resulting in the positive upward trajectory of student achievement scores.  In addition, Ehrhardt notes the collaborative efforts of the staff to continuously improve the clarity and coherence in the written curriculum is another important ingredient of success.  
While this year’s report card results indicates there is much to celebrate and be proud of, it also points to the need for more deliberate efforts to improve student growth scores and achievement for Students with Disabilities and other special populations.  This year, the district has launched the Equity and Excellence Plan which is designed to refine learning focus and excel future achievement gains for these groups in each school.

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