RACINE COUNTY — West-end schools were among the best performing in the county, with 17 out of 24 schools receiving ratings of “Exceeds Expectations” or “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. That’s according to overall accountability scores published early Tuesday morning, which were based on test scores from the 2017-18 school year.
However, compared to 2016-17 results, more schools serving the west side of Racine County received lesser overall accountability scores this year. Seventeen schools’ scores fell, while just seven improved.
Lake Denoon Middle School, part of the Muskego-Norway school district, received the highest score of any school which serves Racine County. Its score of 90.9 was among the top 4 percent of schools in the state.
Coming in near the top was another western Racine County school, Raymond Elementary (which scored an 87.4), followed by Washington-Caldwell Elementary in Tichigan (86.5) and Evergreen Elementary in Waterford (84.0).
Those four schools — along with Walden III Middle and High School (85.2) Janes Elementary (84.5), and Wadewitz Elementary (83.7) in the City of Racine — were the only ones that serve Racine County that received “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” assessments by DPI.
The West-end school that showed the biggest year-to-year shift was Lakeview Elementary in Wind Lake, also part of the Muskego-Norway School District. Its rating fell from 75.6 in 2016-17 down to 66.9 in the results released Tuesday. That’s an 8.9 point drop, and lowers its DPI assessment from “Exceeds Expectations” to “Meets Expectations.”
Both Union Grove High School (73.7) and Union Grove Elementary (78.7) improved over last year’s marks.
“It’s sort of an all-around measurement,” Al Mollerskov, superintendent at UGHS, said of DPI’s overall accountability scores. “Our administration, as well as our staff, make an effort to make sure every child is tested … the focus is getting to every student.”
UGHS had received an overall accountability score above 73 every year between 2011-12 and 2015-16, and received an “Exceeds Expectations” assessment each time from DPI, but fell down to 70.6 last year, which is in the “Meets Expectations” category. Now, the school “Exceeds Expectations” once again.
Since the 2012-2013 school year, UGHS’s graduation rate has increased from 91 percent to 98, according to Public School Review.
What’s going right at Lake Denoon?
After the 2011-12 school year, Lake Denoon Middle School, which serves students from Wind Lake, was doing pretty well by DPI’s standards. Its overall accountability score was sitting at 73.1, just barely creeping into the “exceeds expectations” category. That’s four out of five stars on The Journal Times grade scale.
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Now, its score is up to 90.9; Lake Denoon received five out of five stars this year and is ranked 77th out of 2,110 ranked schools in Wisconsin.
In 2012, students in Individualized Education Programs (traditionally referred to as “special education students”) at Lake Denoon were lagging behind, according to Jeff Petersen, Muskego-Norway School District assistant superintendent.
That year, Lake Denoon, W216-S10586 Crowbar Road, Muskego, was awarded a grant by DPI. The school was paired with a coach from the Cooperative Educational Service Agencies. Petersen said that the coach’s goal was to develop the school into a “professional learning community.”
According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the goal of a professional learning community — a well-known process within education circles — is to “focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself (teachers) accountable for results.”
One major instrument in the construction of the professional learning community at Lake Denoon has been the implementation of weekly small-group meetings. At the meetings, teachers are obligated to analyze their students’ performance over the last week through uniform measures.
“Student data always needs to be part of those conversations,” Petersen said.
By going over objective indicators on a consistent basis, Petersen believes that teachers will become better equipped to immediately address areas where some students’ may be struggling, while also being able to more quickly bolster areas where they’re making progress.
“Things don’t happen miraculously (in the classroom). It’s because of the very purposeful actions of adults,” Petersen said. “Our adults can put action in place that leads to strong student results.”
It’s paid off too, at least by looking at the DPI’s assessment scores. Between 2011-2012 and 2017-18, Lake Denoon’s assessments have improved from 62 to 87.9 in the student growth category, from 30.6 to 49.2 (out of 50) in math growth, and from 62.9 to 92.7 in closing gaps. Not to mention the nearly 17.8 point surge in its overall ranking.
Each of those subcategories looks at year-over-year comparisons of students’ scores compared to previous testing.
“It is important to understand student learning relative to academic standards. However, student academic achievement measured at one point in time does not reveal a student’s academic growth. When a student’s score is viewed in isolation, it can’t tell you if that student has made relatively normal progress, a huge leap forward, or lost ground compared to earlier points in time,” the DPI wrote on its website.
The DPI grant that connected Lake Denoon with its coach ended after the 2017-18 school year, Petersen said, but the Muskego-Norway School District decided to partner on its own with CESA to continue coaching its seven schools.
“Student data always needs to be part of those conversations … Things don’t happen miraculously (in the classroom). It’s because of the very purposeful actions of adults. Our adults can put action in place that leads to strong student results.” Jeff Petersen, Muskego-Norway School District assistant superintendent
“Student data always needs to be part of those conversations … Things don’t happen miraculously (in the classroom). It’s because of the very purposeful actions of adults. Our adults can put action in place that leads to strong student results.”
Jeff Petersen, Muskego-Norway School District assistant superintendent