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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

1 in 5 Wisconsin school districts slide in state report card rankings, including MPS

Students arrive on the first day of school at MPS's Academy of Accelerated Learning.
Emily Files
Students arrive on the first day of school at MPS's Academy of Accelerated Learning.

Milwaukee Public Schools lost ground in Wisconsin’s school accountability rankings this year, although the results are not as reliable as they could be due to low test participation in 2021.

MPS dropped from “meeting expectations” on its 2021 state report card to “meets few expectations.”

The Department of Public Instruction calculates the annual report cards based on academic achievement, student growth and other factors like graduation rates and absenteeism. Student growth is weighted more heavily than achievement for districts with more disadvantaged students.

>> See your school report card here.

Each district and school receives a score from 0-100, which correlates with a category, from “fails to meet expectations” to “significantly exceeds expectations.”

DPI's accountability report card scale.
Department of Public Instruction
DPI's accountability report card scale.

MPS’s score dropped from 58.1 in 2021 to 56.8 in 2022, putting it in the “meets few expectations” category. In 2019, before the pandemic, MPS scored a 58.4, but it’s not an exact comparison because DPI altered its report card formula in 2021.

MPS Director of Research and Assessment Melanie Stewart said even though MPS fell to a lower category, a drop of less than 2 percentage points on the 100-point scale.

"Would we like to be at that higher category? Of course we would," Stewart told WUWM. "Do we plan to get back to that level? Absolutely. But we have to look at all of the components of data to make a difference for our kids."

Stewart said the 2022 report cards use graduation, attendance and absenteeism data from 2020-21, when MPS was virtual for most of the school year.

"So we know how remote learning impacted those things, so we have to take that into consideration when we look at it," Stewart said.

MPS isn’t the only district that experienced a slide this year. About one in five districts and one in four private choice schools dropped at least one category, according to DPI. Out of 421 school districts, 284 went down on the 100-point scale.

The report cards use three years of data, so this latest report card includes more pandemic-era data than the previous one.

The 2022 report card uses data from the 2018-19, 20-21, and 21-22 school years. There were no report cards generated for the 2019-20 school, due to the pandemic.

“You’re effectively swapping out 2017-18 [data] for 2021-22 data,” DPI education consultant Patrick Chambers said during a press briefing. “If they had 2021-22 results that are significantly lower than 2017-18, that’s contributing to lower scores and lower ratings.”

Racine (50.5) and Kenosha (57.1) are also in the "meets few expectations" category. The lowest-scoring school districts in Wisconsin are Menominee Indian (48.4), Beloit (48.7), Tri-County Area (50.3), Racine Unified (50.5) and Two Rivers (51.3). In each district, more than half of students are economically disadvantaged.

The highest-scoring districts with multiple schools are Whitefish Bay (93.1), Hartland-Lakeside J3 (91.7), Fox Point J2 (91.7), Kohler (91.1), and Cedarburg (90.3). Those districts serve more affluent populations, with between 1% and 20% economically disadvantaged students.

DPI also produces report cards for private schools that participate in the taxpayer-funded parental choice programs, though about half of them don’t have enough students to receive a score.

The ten highest-scoring Milwaukee schools are private choice schools, with elementary schools Nativity Jesuit (95.2), Saint Johns Evangelical Lutheran (92.4), and Saint Thomas Aquinas at the top.

Nine of the 10 lowest-performing schools in Milwaukee are MPS high schools and elementary schools. North Division (10.7), Washington High School (12.9), and Grandview High School (13.5) score the lowest.

The highest-scoring Milwaukee public schools are Maryland Montessori (83), Carmen High School South (82.7), and Reagan College Prep (81.9).

Among Milwaukee schools serving 90% or more economically disadvantaged students, the highest-ranking are Nativity Jesuit (95.1 on state report card), Risen Savior Evangelical Lutheran (89.6), Prince of Peace (83.3), Carmen High School South (82.7), and Pratt Elementary (79.4).

Editor's note: MPS is a financial contributor to WUWM. This story will be updated.

Emily is WUWM's education reporter and a news editor.
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