Jefferson schools exceed expectations, improve on state report card

JEFFERSON — Time was, the only report cards parents needed to worry about were those their children brought home.

Now, families have the opportunity to keep abreast of their school’s and district’s performance on Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued school and district report cards, as well.

Parents of Jefferson students can rest easy about their schools’ performance, however, as the district continues to score in the “exceeds expectations” category on numerous measures.

Introducing the topic at Monday’s school board meeting, Barb Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for the Jefferson schools, started out by reminding attendees of the district’s aim of “Empowering Futures Together (so that) all students positively impact society.”

The School District of Jefferson has laid out as the first core strategy in its comprehensive plan to inspire teaching, learning and achievement.

Under that category, school officials have pledged to improve student growth, close achievement gaps and place at or above the state mean for all Wisconsin public schools in English and math achievement as measured by the 2019-20 State Report Card.

For several years now, the state DPI has produced report cards for every publicly funded school and district in Wisconsin. Of 419 districts throughout the state, 40 (10 percent) “significantly exceed expectations” by scoring 83-100 on their report cards.

Another 198 (or 48 percent) “exceed expectations” with scores of 73-82.9 percent. Some 163 schools “meet expectations” with scores of 63-72.9 percent. Seventeen schools scored in the “meets few expectations” range coming in with scores of 53 to 62.9, and only one ranked as “fails to meet expectations” with a score under 53.

The part of the “report card” everyone looks at is the overall accountability rating and score.

This score is broken down into two major parts, however. The first part measures a set of four priority areas: student achievement, district growth, closing gaps, on-track and post-secondary readiness. The second part measures two different student engagement indicators, the first of these concerning chronic absenteeism and the second concerning the dropout rate.

Overall, Jefferson came in with the score of 74.3 percent or “exceeds expectations.” That’s up from 72.6 in 2017-18.

In priority area #1, Student Achievement, the state report card looks at a three-year average of student scores on the Wisconsin Forward Exam (grades 3-8), the American College Test (ACT) with writing for high school juniors, and Dynamic Learning Maps.

In priority area #2, Growth, the report card looks at value-added figures, comparing Jefferson students with observationally similar students on the standardized tests.

Priority area #3, Closing Gaps, looks at achievement and graduation gaps that are a statewide issue, concerning how students with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged, English learners, and Hispanic students do in comparison to the general school population.

A school or district must have at least 20 students in a subgroup and at least three and up to five years of data for that info to be included.

Under this category, districts that raise test scores and graduation rates for these target groups faster than the state average are rewarded.

The fourth priority area, On Track and Post-secondary Readiness, looks at all students in a particular graduating class.

Considered are attendance, ELA achievement in the third-grade and math in the eighth-grade.

School scores

Jefferson High School received a 72.3 rating for the 2018-19 school year, falling into the “meets expectations” category. This is actually up from the school’s 2017-18 rating of 68.2.

Strengths include student achievement in English and math, school growth in math, closing gaps in English and math, and the graduation rate.

An area to focus on and improve in the future is school growth in English and language arts.

Jefferson Middle School received an overall score of 72.1. This, too, is up from the school’s 2017-18 rating of 67.3.

Areas of strength include growth in English, closing gaps in English, and the attendance rate.

Areas to focus on for improvement in the future include achievement in English and math, growth in math, closing gaps in math and eighth-grade math achievement.

East Elementary School earned an overall 77.0, down a bit from the school’s score of 78.9 in 2017-18.

Strengths include achievement in English and math, school growth in math, closing gaps in English and math, attendance and third-grade English/language arts achievement.

Opportunities for improvement were seen in English/language arts growth.

Sullivan Elementary School again excelled with an overall score of 86.8 or “significantly exceeds expectations.” This is up from the previous year’s score of 84.4.

Strengths included achievement in English and math, school growth in English and math, closing gaps in math, attendance and third-grade English/language arts achievement.

There is an opportunity to improve at this school in English/language arts achievement gaps.

West Elementary School, the school with the highest number of free- and reduced-price lunch qualifiers in the district, scored a laudable 83.2 or “significantly exceeds expectations.” This is up quite a bit from the school’s score of 79.2 in 2017-18.

Strengths include English and math growth, closing gaps in English and math, and attendance.

There are still opportunities to improve in English/language arts achievement and third-grade English/language arts achievement.

Strengths at the district level include achievement in English and math, district growth in English, closing gaps in English and math, on-track graduation and attendance rates and third-grade English/language arts achievement.

There are also areas the district could focus on to improve, including district growth in math and eighth-grade math achievement.

In one sense, the school and district report cards provide a snapshot in time. They are not the only measure of school and district success, but they are an important way of seeing how the Jefferson schools stack up against public schools across the state.

District officials will use the information from these reports as they develop and modify the district strategic plan and lay out objective action steps at all of the district schools.

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