In the wake of last week’s announcement of Racine Unified School District’s passing grade from the state Department of Instruction came a broad consensus in response, from educators, legislators and municipal officials alike:

We’re glad to see the improvement. But keep it up.

The district received an overall score of 59.3 for the 2016-17 school year, removing the specter, at least for now, of suburban villages breaking away from Racine Unified.

If the district had received a failing grade, the villages within the district could have held referendums to see if voters wanted to form their own school district or districts.

Having received a score of 48.1 for the 2015-2016 school year, Unified was one of 24 districts that saw a 10-point swing in its overall score. For Unified, that meant moving from the “failing to meet expectations” category to “meets few expectations.”

It’s an improvement. That cannot be denied.

But an improvement to the category of “meets few expectations” isn’t anything to proudly include in the Christmas letter to the extended family.

Unified beat the state average at closing achievement gaps among low-income students, English language learners, and minority racial and ethnic groups, but it fell below the state average in three of the four priority areas — those measuring achievement, growth and how well the district is doing keeping students on track.

Unified’s overall score of 59.3 put it well behind county school districts on the other side of Interstate 94: The next-closest county district in enrollment to RUSD, Burlington Area School District, came in at 77.9; Union Grove High School scored a 70.6 and Waterford High School at 69.2. We want to see that gap closed.

We’d also like to see less reliance from the state on the five-year average when it comes to graduation rates. It may be argued that one poor year in a five-year stretch is an aberration; it may also be argued that emphasizing a five-year average enables the worst year of the five to be obscured. To our eyes, this year’s graduation rate is either up, down or flat compared to last year’s; each student either graduates or does not.

We want every Racine Unified School District student to graduate and be ready for college or a career; therefore, we want the RUSD institution to succeed in its mission. But we want the students’ success more than we want the institution’s success.

It should go without saying that the same legislators and municipal officials, especially suburban municipal officials, who are happy to see the improvement announced last week will be equally disappointed if RUSD regresses during this school year, if next November shows a lower score from DPI. The voices calling for breakaway school districts will get louder if that happens.

So we add our voices to the current chorus:

We’re glad to see the improvement. But keep it up.


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