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State report cards: Baraboo, Portage school districts meet expectations
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State report cards: Baraboo, Portage school districts meet expectations

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Baraboo and Portage school districts retained ratings of meets expectations on their report cards released Tuesday by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Based on measures in four areas — student achievement, school growth, on-track and post secondary readiness and closing gaps between student groups — the report cards score individual schools and overall districts out of 100 possible points, which correspond to a five-star scale that ranges from failing to meet expectations to significantly exceeding expectations.

For the 2018-19 report cards, 87% of schools and 96% of public school districts met or exceeded expectations, according to the DPI.

Portage

Portage Community School District increased by almost 2 points over last year, earning three stars at an overall score of 69.4 out of 100.

“I am very proud of all of the hard work in helping our students achieve that everyone has collectively put into moving the district forward and working together,” District Administrator Margaret Rudolph said.

She noted each of the district’s schools improved on their report cards this year, and the district overall made gains in student achievement, district growth and closing gaps.

“These gains are encouraging because our district goals target these areas for continued growth, so we’re proud of the increased achievement in every building, but we look forward to continuing to work together,” Rudolph said.

To continue closing student achievement gaps — one of the district’s areas of focus — Rudolph said staff will target improvement plans to meet students’ needs based on subgroup data.

Baraboo

The Baraboo School District dipped by 2 points from last year but remains in the meets expectations category.

Director of Teaching and Learning Nick Karls cautioned against directly comparing one year’s score with another. He said the different student cohorts each year and changes in what assessments are used to calculate report cards mean they aren’t “apples to apples.”

“It’s useful information, but overall as a district, our students are more than a score on a report card or a single test,” Karls said. “We’re looking at all of the opportunities that we bring in for students that they’re able to take advantage of — things like our increasing dual-enrollment options for students, options for them to obtain industry-recognized certifications, our increased graduation rates.”

It’s also important to consider a district’s demographics, Karls said, noting the relationship between student poverty levels and report card ratings. The DPI weighs certain scores differently based on a district’s or school’s population of economically disadvantaged students, but those with higher poverty levels still tend to get lower overall report card ratings, according to a DPI news release.

Roughly 48% of Baraboo students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the DPI. In one elementary school in the district, almost three-quarters of students are economically disadvantaged.

In Portage, about 37% of students are disadvantaged.

Despite the challenges, Karls said Baraboo continues to see student achievement above the state average in math and English language arts.

“We’re happy to see that all schools within our district hold a rating of meets or exceeds expectations,” he said.

Overall, the district improved in the areas of closing gaps and postsecondary readiness. Karls said achievement gaps remain between various student groups, though they have started to close over the last few years.

“It’s something we continue to work on,” he said.

Staff at each Baraboo school will delve into the report cards to identify takeaways and areas they can improve on, Karls said. But, he added, the reports are one piece of a larger puzzle and their data is older than some of the district’s internal assessments, so they will consider all of the assessments collectively.

Voucher schools

None of the local private schools participating in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, in which taxpayer-funded vouchers pay for students to attend those schools, had enough data to receive a report card rating.

Choice schools are required to submit information and get a report card for their voucher students and can request an additional report for their entire student body. According to the DPI, 322 private choice schools received report cards for 2018-19; 106 of them opted for the additional report card.

However, 189 weren’t rated due to insufficient data, including Community Christian School of Baraboo, Saint Peters Lutheran Grade School of Reedsburg, Saint John’s Lutheran School of Portage and Wisconsin Academy of Columbus.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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