NEW Status Report on Education in the Badger State

WILL’s sixth edition of Apples to Apples report shows not just WI choice schools’ increased proficiency rates, but their efficient use of taxpayer dollars

The News: As part of this year’s celebration of School Choice Week, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) released its annual Apples to Apples report, which gives an honest assessment of how Wisconsin schools and districts are performing.

Educational options like private school choice and charter schools continue to provide an important alternative for students—with proficiency advantages in both math and ELA in Milwaukee, and in ELA statewide.

The Quote: WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, stated, “Once again, school choice has proven significant performance advantages, in math and reading, for Wisconsin students. What’s more, is that the use of taxpayer dollars for these options give more bang for buck. WILL knows that the fight against school choice is far from over. This report highlights the need to continue to inform and defend educational opportunities for all.”

What is Apples to Apples? WILL’s annual Apples to Apples report puts schools on a level playing field to fairly assess education in Wisconsin across public, charter, and private voucher schools.

Our report endeavors to incorporate demographic factors like student income, disability status, and grade level through rigorous statistical modeling that controls for, and assesses the impact of, several student characteristics. This report has been updated to include data from the 2022-23 report cards.

The Findings:

  • Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program continue to outperform their public-school peers. Proficiency rates in private choice schools were 8.6% higher in English/Language Arts (ELA) and 6.9% higher in math on average than proficiency rates in traditional public schools in Milwaukee.
  • Charter school students in Milwaukee continue to outperform their public-school peers. District charters saw 6.9% and 6.5% higher proficiency in ELA and math respectively than traditional public schools.
  • Statewide, choice students outperform their public-school peers in ELA. Proficiency rates were about 3.1% higher in ELA for students participating in school choice statewide than traditional public-school students. For the first time, proficiency was found to be lower in math.
  • Wisconsin continues to struggle with its achievement gaps. Statewide, a school with 100% low-income students would be expected to have proficiency rates 47.3% lower in ELA and 45.2% lower in math compared to a hypothetical school with zero low-income students. For African American students, that gap is 23% in ELA and 26% in math. Hispanic students have an achievement gap of approximately 6.7% in math, but no significant gap was found in ELA.
  • Choice and charter schools are more efficient with taxpayer money. Once the demographics of students in the schools are taken into account, choice and charter schools earn more proficiency per $1,000 of spending than traditional public schools in both Milwaukee and the state as a whole.
  • Choice schools offer more value added. 12 of the top 20 schools in the state where student performance exceeds expectations based on demographics are in the state’s choice programs.
  • Rural schools perform worse than schools in any other type of geography. On average, proficiency in Wisconsin’s rural schools is significantly lower in both ELA and math than urban, suburban, or town schools.

Don’t Miss this Town Hall: Join WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, and Education Counsel, Cory Brewer, this Wednesday, January 24th, at 11 AM CST for an informative virtual town hall regarding the status of education in Wisconsin.

Dig Deeper:

Will Flanders, PHD

Will Flanders, PHD

Research Director

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