Wisconsin’s State Report Card in Urgent Need of Reform

December 2, 2021

New WILL policy brief offers three ways to immediately improve the report card

The News: The recent release of Wisconsin’s state report cards for individual districts and schools proved, once again, that the current composition of the report card is not doing enough to reveal the true state of education and academic performance in Wisconsin’s schools. A new policy brief from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) highlights why the various elements of the report card intended to address persistent achievement gaps serve to create a scenario where schools with high numbers of low-income students can earn a passing grade, “Meets Expectations,” with academic proficiency rates of 10% or less.

The Quote: WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, said, “Wisconsin’s state report cards are, quite simply, not serving their purpose. Families, taxpayers, and policymakers deserve a report card that accurately shows the state of Wisconsin’s schools.”

How to Improve the Report Card: In The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Wisconsin’s Report Card “Fails to Meet Expectations,” WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, takes on the key metrics that are warping the results and masking poor achievement in Wisconsin’s state report card. Flanders suggests the following reforms:

  • Reduce the weight applied to growth scores in low-income schools. Student growth is important, but a report card formula that counts student growth as 45% of a score in some schools and only 5% in others is unfair and untenable.
  • Report card thresholds should be established by state law. The legislature should remove the ability of DPI to adjust report card thresholds at their own volition—”Meeting Expectations” should mean the same thing every year.
  • Restore absenteeism and dropout reductions in the report card formula. If the pandemic has shown us anything in education policy, it is that classroom-based instruction matters. School districts that fail to get students into the classroom should have that reflected in their scores.

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