Most area schools making the grade

Shawano’s 4-star district goal within reach
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

SHAWANO — The state Department of Public Instruction released its 2019 school report cards Tuesday, and most area schools are passing the standards, although many of them saw a slip in district scores.

Shawano School District was not one of them. The district saw a boost of 2.5 points in its overall score as the DPI announced it had achieved 71.3 points, putting it in the upper echelon of three-star schools — the minimum number of stars needed to be considered a passing school.

In 2018, the district scored a 68.8.

The continued improvement is helping the district to achieve its long-term goal of being a four-star school district — which is considered to exceed the state’s expectations — by 2021. Kelley Strike, the district’s curriculum and assessment director, believes the district could achieve the four-star rating next year if the rate of improvement continues.

“We saw increases across the board in all schools and as a district, so that’s positive,” Strike said. “We are definitely on track to meet our goal in 2021.

The DPI bases its score on data collected in four key areas: student achievement, school growth, closing gaps and on-track and post-secondary readiness. Readiness and closing gaps each count for 25% of the overall score, while student achievement has the heaviest weight, 45%, and school growth counts for the remaining 5%.

Shawano Community Middle School is already in the four-star category this year with a score of 74.1, a giant leap from the 64.6 score it received in 2018. Shawano Community High School saw a modest boost in its score with 69.9, and Olga Brener Intermediate kept steady at 69.4 points; both are three-star schools.

Hillcrest Primary School and LEADS Primary Charter School received satisfactory ratings from the state, due to the schools being pre-K to second grade. State testing is not mandatory until third grade, so the schools could not be judged by the same criteria as their counterparts.

Each of the schools have a learning plan that identifies strengths and weaknesses to assist teachers in providing help to those students who need it, Strike said. She noted that the state data is combined with local data to determine the best strategies to keep all students engaged and learning.

“We’re pleased about the direction we’re heading in,” Strike said.

“The one thing we want to look at as a leadership team is the achievement piece,” she said. “That’s an area where we can look to improve, but we’re pleased with the closing gaps piece.”

Closing achievement gaps means that students have similar test scores regardless of their race or genders, whether they have a disability and what economic subgroup they’re in.

The Shawano School Board will discuss the report cards on Monday and look at where the district will go next, Strike said.

Gresham School District only saw a modest drop in its overall score from 65.9 last year to 65.7 this year. The high school saw a jump in its score from 64.6 to 68.7, while the elementary grades slipped from 63.4 to 57.9, putting them in the two-star category.

Intervention programs to make sure struggling students aren’t falling through the cracks can be attributed to the high school’s improvement, according to Newell Haffner, the district’s superintendent.

“We’re identifying students’ gaps and coming up with programming to attack those gaps during our RTI (Response to Intervention) periods,” Haffner said, noting those periods are 30-40 minutes daily.

He said it wasn’t clear why the elementary school fell back in its overall scores, although he noted the state has altered the weights for each priority area and that has impacted final scores.

“They changed the rules,” Haffner said.

Despite the scores, Haffner is not concerned, as the district recently updated curricula in both math and English, key areas tested on state assessments. He believes the new material will help to bring scores back up on future report cards.

Clintonville School District saw its overall score fall from 74 last year to 72.8 this year, but it was just enough to see the district go from a four-star rating to a three-star rating.

Clintonville High School showed much improvement with a 68.9 score, compared with 58.4 in 2018, giving the school a three-star rating. Clintonville Middle School and Rexford-Longfellow Elementary School both finished with four-star ratings after getting scores of 78.4 and 73.5, respectively, which dropped from 78.6 and 77.8.

David Dyb, the district’s superintendent, said that the high school went up in all four priority areas, which is what catapulted it into the upper half of the three-star category.

“One of the things that we were not scored on last year that we were scored on this year was school growth,” Dyb said. “There was also a big increase in closing (achievement) gaps.”

Dyb said the district will look at making sure staff is well prepared to help students with any subjects they’re struggling in, while also making sure there are opportunities for students to engage in their learning so it does not become stagnant.

“The buy-in is much greater when we have that approach to things, getting them to believe in themselves and their success from the start,” he said.

Pulaski Community School District continued to hold steady in the four-star category with a score of 78.4, 0.5 points above last year’s score.

Two of its elementary schools, Fairview and Glenbrook, had three-star ratings this year, while Hillcrest Elementary School ranked a score of 83.9, putting it in the five-star category, the highest a school can achieve. All of the other schools received four-star ratings.

“It is obvious the Pulaski Community School District continues to provide high-quality educational opportunities for all students due to the work of the students, staff and families,” Tony Klaubauf, the district’s interim superintendent, said in a press release. “The district personnel will use the information from the report cards in our continual efforts to provide our students with the skills and values to succeed in and out of school.”

The other school districts in Shawano County — Bonduel, Bowler, Marion, Tigerton and Wittenberg-Birnamwood — all received three-star ratings. Menominee Indian School District received a two-star rating.

District scores are based on current scores of individual schools, along with score changes over several years. Besides scores from the testing companies, school districts send in information annually on how students are learning.