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The state’s report cards are out, showing Columbus slipping somewhat from last year’s assessment, while Fall River improved slightly.

Based on reports from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released Nov. 12, Columbus received an overall score of 70.6 or meets expectations, while Fall River received a 77.5, exceeds expectations. Scores are mostly based on testing and data from the 2018-19 school year. School districts, including individual schools, are graded on five separate levels: significantly exceeds expectations, exceeds expectations, meets expectations, meets few expectations and fails to meet expectations.

In a press release, Columbus Director of Curriculum and Instruction Becky Schmidt said the reports help districts gauge student progress.

“The report cards are intended to help schools and districts utilize performance data to target their improvement efforts so that students are ready for their next educational step – including the next grade level, graduation, college, and careers,” said Schmidt.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Fall River Middle-High School Principal Brian Zacho said, “We just continue to keep getting better and keep growing our programs and our kids so obviously seeing that growth and moving to exceeding expectations is where we want to be, but we want to continue to grow and continue to make our school the best in the area.”

For individual schools, Fall River Elementary, a Kindergarten-fifth grade school, scored an 83.6 or significantly exceeds expectations grade. Schools scoring an 83-100 reach the highest level.

Last year, Columbus scored a 75.2 or exceeds expectations grade; Fall River also earned an exceeds expectations rating, but improved its overall score this year by 2.5 points. For the 2016-17 school year, Fall River earned a 76.3 score and Columbus received a 69.1 or meets expectations.

To discuss the DPI report cards, Columbus will hold a public meeting Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m. at the middle school library.

To determine scores, DPI rates schools and districts on a 100-point scale (50 points for each sub-category) in four priority areas: student achievement, district growth, closing gaps, and on-track and postsecondary readiness. Fall River Elementary performed very well in school growth with a 91.7 score.

In student achievement, Columbus scored a 66.1, overall, in English language arts (34.1) and mathematics (32). For student achievement, Columbus students rank slightly ahead of the state average.

Columbus showed great strides in district growth, earning a 41.6 in ELA growth and 34 in math. State averages are 33 in each. In closing gaps, Columbus scored 18 in a 25-point scale in ELA, 14.3 in math and 24.6 in graduation rate gaps (out of 50). State averages in closing gaps are 18.1, 18 and 32.7, respectfully.

“One thing crucial for understanding is that in 2018-19, each of the four report cards are based on different criteria,” Schmidt said.

In on-track and postsecondary readiness, overall, Columbus scored 84.5, just below the state average (84.8).

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This year, Columbus Elementary School received an alternative rating because it does not have enough data to provide an assessment. The DPI grades schools on a three-year average. Columbus Elementary became a 4K-2 school last year as students in grades 3-5 were moved to the middle school, forming an intermediate school. Overall, DPI reported the elementary showed satisfactory progress. Columbus Intermediate also received a satisfactory progress ranking.

“Alternate accountability is a district-supervised self-evaluation process in which schools report and evaluate their performance in raising student achievement in ELA, mathematics, and in preparing students to be on-track for college and careers,” Schmidt said. “These priority areas align to those found in the school report cards. Instead of the five rating categories on the report card, alternate accountability schools receive a rating of either satisfactory progress or needs improvement.”

Discovery Charter School, housing K-3 students, earned a 72.8 or meets expectations grade. Columbus Middle School (6-8) earned a 75.3 or exceeds expectations mark, while the high school earned a 71.5 (meets expectations) score.

The high school ranked above the state average in on-track and postsecondary readiness, school growth and student achievement, but was behind in closing gaps.

At Fall River, student achievement ranks 64.4 out of 100, with a 32.8 in ELA and 31.6 in math. Fall River did very well in district growth, scoring a 78.4; 42.5 in ELA and 35.9 in math. The state average is 66.

In closing gaps, Fall River earned an 82.7; 39.6 in ELA and 43.1 in math. Graduation rate gaps were non-applicable. For on-track and career readiness, Fall River scored an 85.5, somewhat higher than the state average.

Fall River Middle School and High School were graded together as a 6-12 building. The school earned an overall 74.5 exceeds expectations score.

“We’re doing a very good job, overall, in getting what we need for kids,” Zacho said. “Every year we’re looking at improving those ACT scores. We still want to make sure we’re closing gaps and make sure our graduation rate is exceptional.”

At the high school, students also scored high in closing gaps (85.1), but dipped a little below state average in student achievement, 59.7 to 60.5 and on-track and postsecondary readiness, 82.8 to 84. Fall River also ranks higher than the state average in growth 72.7 to 66. Zacho said Fall River does an ACT test preparation program to prepare students for the exam.

“So they’re not scared by any questions on it when they get there,” Zacho said. “We’re hoping to see, as we continue to do those things every year, improvement in those scores.”

In Columbus, for the past two years, the district has overhauled its literacy and math curriculum. Columbus hired coaches to assist staff in implementing the changes.

“DPI stresses that the report cards are just one source of information about our schools,” Schmidt said. “The schools are working hard to provide students with a great educational experience every day.”

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.

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