Janesville School District gets 74.5 grade from DPI

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Frank Schultz
Monday, October 22, 2012

— Most Janesville schools are doing a fair to superior job of educating students, according to new report cards the state issued for schools statewide today.

The Janesville School District gave The Gazette an advance look at the local report cards on the condition that they not be revealed until today, when the state was scheduled to release report cards for all schools.

The report cards are designed to hold schools accountable for providing a quality education.

The state's previous accountability system focused on test scores. The new assessments delve more deeply into the quality of teaching and the benefits that students receive from schools, Janesville school officials said.

The report cards detail various aspects of education at each school. They also boil down a school's results to one number, based on a scale of 0 to 100. The score is called an accountability rating.

The ratings place each school on a five-step scale, from the lowest, "fails to meet expectations," to the highest, "significantly exceeds expectations."

The district's average score was 74.5, which gives it the second-best rating, "exceeds expectations."

Most Janesville schools met or exceeded expectations. Roosevelt, Harrison and Kennedy elementary schools all scored in the top tier.

The three middle schools met expectations in their overall rating, but Marshall Middle School failed to meet expectations in one of the elements that went into its overall score.

Marshall had the best test scores of the three middle schools when results were announced last spring, but the report cards rate all three schools as equals. They all received a score of 71.

Marshall's difficulty was a poor score—48.9—in "student growth." This category measures students' test-score improvements from year to year.

This result measures what teachers do in the classroom, said Kim Ehrhardt, director of instruction for the Janesville district.

"This really shows if what you're doing at school matters," Ehrhardt said of the growth measure, although he wasn't referring to Marshall when he said it.

Ehrhardt said Marshall's growth score shows "a little bit of stagnation. … They need to look at what they need to do to jump-start their growth."

Part of the problem is that students who do well on the tests are not showing much growth, Ehrhardt said.

"Sometimes if you do not keep pushing, they will stall," especially at that age, Ehrhardt added.

All three middle schools showed weaknesses in the growth measure, so they'll have to work to improve, Ehrhardt said.

The high schools' report cards do not show growth scores because high school students are tested only in 10th grade—there is no test in ninth or 11th grade to compare.

Craig High School's overall rating was 72, compared with Parker High's 69.7. But Parker did better in "closing gaps."

"Closing gaps" shows whether members of certain groups are catching up with their peers. Those groups, on average, tend to perform more poorly. They include students from low-income families, those with disabilities and members of ethnic and racial minorities.

Craig scored a 62.8 in closing gaps, which means it "meets few expectations." Parker "meets expectations" in this category, with a 68.3.

Wilson Elementary School's overall rating was the lowest in the district, something that also showed up when test scores were released last spring. Wilson is rated "meets few expectations."

The new system offers assistance to failing schools and requires improvement plans, Ehrhardt said.

The state will give Wilson $14,000 to train teachers in improvement methods, Ehrhardt said. The school might hire a reading coach or a math coach, or teachers might be sent to an institute to learn the best strategies for students living in poverty, Ehrhardt said.

The state also will send experts.

"They will meet with you, make sure you understand what the concern is and will help devise a really well-devised corrective action plan," Ehrhardt said.

Wilson scored poorly not only in test scores but also in "closing gaps."

Wilson has the lowest-income population in the district.

"Poverty always creates more challenges for student learning, and that's where we need to use the best of our best practices to do battle with some of those deficits in the learning," Ehrhardt said.

Research shows that if schools do it correctly, poor students can make "incredible gains," Ehrhardt said.

For the moment, the report card data are not being used to evaluate individual teachers.

"Eventually it will," Ehrhardt said. "Eventually, it's supposed to do that."

Last updated: 4:47 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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