Wisconsin just released its 2022-23 education report card, which boasts 94% of its districts are performing at or above state expectations. But experts say the data is skewed.
According to the report card, Wisconsin’s well-functioning districts average about 60% in math and reading proficiency.
However, districts with far worse proficiency scores are still labeled as meeting or exceeding expectations.
For example, Menominee Indian Public Schools has only 7% proficiency in math and 16% in reading. Districts in Milwaukee and Beloit scored just 32% and 23% in the respective subjects.
And a total of 60 schools “meet state expectations” despite having fewer than 20% of their students performing grade level math. The same is true of 32 schools in reading.
How could the state consider these clearly underperforming schools to be successful?
According to the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), the state is using a completely different standard – called “student growth” – to decide how low-performing schools are faring.
Student growth, WILL explains, “is a measure of the extent to which students have improved their performance from one year to the next.”
“In districts with more low-income students, student proficiency is weighted less highly than it is in districts with fewer low-income students,” researchers continue. “Instead, student growth is weighted more highly.”
Student growth is a meaningful metric, but it’s dishonest to equate it to actual proficiency, the group maintains.
“The biggest problem with this system is it makes comparability of report card performance across school districts nearly impossible,” WILL concluded. “There is little utility in that for parents in trying to assess whether a school district (or private school in the choice program) is right for their kids.”
Wisconsin has been accused of fudging its education data before, but other states and districts have been accused of similarly lower standards or metrics.
Last year, for example, Maryland’s state report card showed that “average” three-star schools only achieved 13% proficiency in math. It’s high-achieving five-star schools only had 54% proficiency.