Public Policy Forum Blog

New standards and tough goals for region's school districts.

Public school districts in southeast Wisconsin are likely to be hard-pressed to meet new annual performance objectives adopted by the state in connection with its No Child Left Behind Act waiver.  The new objectives are quite ambitious, requiring significant annual improvement by all demographic subgroups of students.  In the latest edition of our annual report, "Public Schooling in Southeast Wisconsin," we find that of all the subgroups and across all subjects, in only one instance – white students in math – does past performance indicate the six-year goal is readily achievable.  All other subgroups in all other subjects would need to dramatically improve proficiency if the goals are to be met.  

This year’s report highlights the host of other new state and federal education policies that will greatly impact local schools, as well, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, new school report cards, changes in state standardized testing, and implementation of teacher effectiveness measures.

Major findings include:

  • A continued five-year gap between southeast Wisconsin students and students in the rest of the state in reading, math, and science proficiency, as measured by the state’s standardized assessment, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.
  • Overall declines in state aid, federal aid, and local property taxes when comparing 2010-11 actual amounts to  2011-12 budgets, coupled with cuts in expenditures.  The 2011-12 budgets for the region’s school districts averaged $665 less per pupil in total expenses and $525 less per pupil in instructional expenses than the previous year.
  • Mostly positive trends in college readiness.  The percentage of students in the region taking the ACT increased 1.1 percentage points, while the region’s composite score declined slightly from 22.8 in 2010 to 22.7 in 2011.  The percentage of AP exams passed by southeast Wisconsin students increased by 1.3 points, and the region’s high school completion rate increased by 0.8 percentage points over the past year.
  • Improved student engagement.  Southeast Wisconsin attendance rates rose slightly over the last year, outpacing a statewide increase. Truancy rates in the region dropped, but remain higher than the statewide average. Dropout rates in the region fell more in the region than across the state as a whole.
  • A 0.8% decline in enrollment in southeast Wisconsin during the past year, representing the largest one-year decline in enrollment in the region in the past five years.  
  • Another year of growing poverty rates.  Almost half of all students in southeast Wisconsin (46%) received free or reduced-price lunch during the 2011-2012 school year, up 11.6  percentage points from 2005-06.

The report is sponsored by Alverno College, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Multiple Listing Service, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, and Waukesha County Technical College.   

A spreadsheet of schooling data for all districts in the 7-county region is also available.      

Anneliese Dickman