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Public Schooling in Southeast Wisconsin 2017

Our 32nd annual report analyzing data from southeast Wisconsin's public school districts finds progress on some college readiness indicators and largely positive showings on district report cards. Those results are offset, however, by discouraging results on standardized tests and continued substantial achievement gaps between students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds.  

Key findings:

  • Second year of state accountability report cards delivers good news. For the second year in a row, 68 districts in the region were rated as exceeding or significantly exceeding expectations. For the first time since the inception of state report cards, no districts failed to meet expectations, and only three were rated as meeting few expectations.   
  • Proficiency levels in math and English Language Arts (ELA) remain alarmingly low. At every grade between 3rd and 8th grades, the share of the region’s students who demonstrate proficiency or higher in either math or ELA is well below 50%. This stubborn trend has persisted since 2011 as measured by three distinct statewide assessments (WKCE, Badger, and Forward).  
  • News mixed on college readiness indicators: The composite ACT score for the region in 2015-16 was 21.1, a slight uptick over 2014-15 and a point higher than the statewide score of 20.1. Meanwhile, participation in AP exams continues to grow (to 19.6%), though the pass rate fell by 2.3 percentage points to 63.8%. Graduation rates in the region declined for the second year in a row to 83.2%.  
  • No regional progress on achievement gaps. Gaps in proficiency levels for 3rd and 8th grade math and ELA have not budged since 2015-16, ranging from 40 to 47 points between African American and white students, and a somewhat narrower range between Hispanic students and their white peers (26 to 33 points). Racial and income-based achievement disparities in graduation rates (16 to 30 percentage points) and ACT scores (2.6 to 4.9 points) also are large and persistent.