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West Allis-West Milwaukee schools get good report card from DPI

District already focused on improving

Oct. 30, 2012

West Allis - With 14 of the 16 schools in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District meeting or exceeding expectations on the new Wisconsin school report cards, director of instruction Johnna Noll said she was pleased.

For the first time, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued preliminary school report cards intended to evaluate how well the schools keep their children from falling behind in reading and math and on how well they engage students. The report cards are based in part on the last three years of results on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam that measures the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced in five subjects. But the report cards also go into student growth, whether they are on track for graduating with good attendance, on math and reading achievement and other measures. The report also docks schools with high absentee or dropout rates.

The two schools that failed to meet expectations, only missed by a little, Noll said. Central High School would have met expectations but it was docked for having an absentee rate of more than 13 percent, she said. That sent its overall accountability score below expectations. Pershing Elementary School also fell short of the "meets expectations" mark, but only by half a point, she said. Pershing's score was 62.5 a hare below the 63 that's the minimum for meeting expectations.

To combat its absentee problems, Central is already working on engaging students by encouraging inquiry, a deeper level of learning especially in reading and writing, Noll said. This year Central also started an extended day school designed for students who, for various reasons, have difficulty getting to school during the regular school day, she said. The extended day school starts in the afternoon and extends into the evening.

In addition, both Central and Hale this year started a freshman academy designed to give students a strong foundation so that they can stay the course through high school. But the results of that won't be seen for a few years.

At Pershing Elementary, scores seemed to fall in reading and writing, which is understandable because Pershing has significantly more English language learners than the other schools, Noll said. Already last year Pershing was trying to address that by focusing more on literacy, she said.

But it will take a while to see results because the accountability scores are based on a three-year rolling average, she said.

"But we are looking forward to improvement at Perishing," Noll said.

Pershing is actually the exception, rather than the rule for the West Allis-West Milwaukee elementary schools. Ten of the 11 district elementary schools not only met but exceeded expectations by having accountability scores of 73 or above.

The preliminary report cards also indicate that the district's elementary and intermediate schools do an exceptional job keeping all students achieving. Horace Mann Elementary, for example, scored 98.4 out of a possible 100 in making sure all subgroups such as economically disadvantaged students keep up with their peers. State education officials told her that West Allis-West Milwaukee overall is one of the highest districts in the state in closing achievement gaps, Noll said.

That has come with effort.

Horace Mann, for example, started a Saturday school last year to give students extra help while parents can get pointers on how they can help their children at home, she said.

Another example is Hoover Elementary that provides extra help at an apartment complex where many of its students live, she said.

Looking ahead to the next round of tests, Noll said the schools are already making plans.

The staff in each building is evaluating the results to identify what they need to do to move forward, Noll said.

The curriculum itself is also being aligned to the new Common Core educational standards that will form the basis of testing in the 2014-15 school year, she said.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

AT A GLANCE

The accountability scores for West Allis-West Milwaukee schools are:

High: Nathan Hale: 73.8, exceeds; Central: 60.6, meets few, deduction for absenteeism

Intermediate: Frank Lloyd Wright: 71.9, meets; Lincoln: 66.3, meets; West Milwaukee: 63.1, meets, deduction for absenteeism

Elementary: Longfellow: 81.3, exceeds; Irving: 79.3, exceeds; Hoover: 79.1, exceeds; Walker: 78.9, exceeds; Madison: 77.2, exceeds; Horace Mann: 76.5, exceeds; Jefferson: 75.6, exceeds; Franklin: 75.3, exceeds; Mitchell: 75.2, exceeds; Wilson: 75, exceeds; Pershing: 62.5, meets few

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