June 9, 2009

Showing Progress: Four Unified schools improve scores to avoid state rebuke

Racine Unified showed encouraging results Tuesday on a state test designed to measure "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) for public schools around the state.

But even though four Unified schools showed improvement this year after falling short in 2007-08, Superintendent James Shaw said the district still had work to do.

"The district is not currently where it needs to be in terms of academic progress, but I believe that the district is poised to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve mathematics achievement at all schools," Shaw said in a prepared statement. "The development of our North Star vision has given the district the framework to ensure that all students graduate career and/or college ready."

Here's a breakdown of Unified's results:

The Good

Racine Unified as a whole received "satisfactory status" from the state Department of Public Instruction. The district had missed AYP the year before.

Goodland and Wadewitz Elementary Schools and Mitchell Middle School missed AYP in the prior year but met AYP this year. They're designated to be in satisfactory status.

McKinley Middle School also met AYP and is designated as Improved. However, the school must meet AYP for two years in a row to be removed from the "Schools Identified for Improvement" (SIFI) list.

Criteria for "satisfactory status" include:
  • 95 percent of enrolled students must take the state's standardized test
  • Elementary and middle schools must have an attendance rate of 85 percent
  • High schools must have a graduation rate of 80 percent
  • Schools must have a reading proficiency index score of 74 percent
  • Schools must have a math proficiency index score of 58 percent

The four schools that made AYP this year after missing it in the prior year all took part in Unified's "Data Retreat" during August 2008. Knapp, which missed AYP in one category, and Gilmore also participated in the retreat, which will be expanded to all of Unified's schools this year, according to the district.

The data-driven model is part of Superintendent James Shaw's plan to create a "data warehouse" for teachers, parents, students and the public to access Unified student data to evaluate public education in our community. The hope is putting data in people's hands will help them identify and solve problems, leading to better results.

Shaw talked about this on his blog. We reported on plans for a data warehouse here. A district-wide "data retreat" is scheduled for August where school districts from around the country will present the strategies they used to dramatically improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.

The Not-So Good

Two schools missed AYP this year in one or more areas for the first time. Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School missed AYP in reading and Gilmore Middle School missed in reading and math. These schools are designated satisfactory because they missed these areas for only one year.

Four schools continue in SIFI status. Case and Horlick High Schools missed in three areas, reading, math, and graduation rate. Park High School missed in math, graduation rate, and test participation.

Knapp Elementary was designated as a SIFI this year after missing AYP in math for two years in a row. Since Knapp is a Title I school, sanctions will apply and the school must meet AYP for two years in a row to be removed from the SIFI list. Sanctions include development of a school improvement plan (which is already a district requirement for all schools) and providing Knapp students with the option to transfer to another public school within Racine Unified.

Unified noted about Knapp's scores: "Knapp missed AYP for only one demographic group in math. The school did in fact make AYP across the other twenty-eight categories of the Wisconsin formula for determining AYP."

Unified said in a prepared statement plans are already underway to improve Knapp.
District administration will assist and support Knapp Elementary students and staff through a three-step process. Administrators began planning with central office staff last Friday and will conduct an Administrative Services Center (ASC) Data Retreat this week to create a school assistance plan for Knapp.

ASC staff will meet with Knapp staff next week to explain and discuss next steps. A meeting with Knapp parents will take place within two weeks. Further strategies which may be employed will include developing a more rigorous math curriculum, providing student tutors and teacher coaches, smaller class sizes, extended time for instruction, and best practices regarding parent engagement.
What else is being done

Unified officials saw hope for all of the district's schools in the results achieved by McKinley and Mitchell Middle Schools and Goodland and Wadewitz Elementary schools.

The district is also working on implementing a more rigorous reading and math curriculum for first and second-grade special education students. The inclusive practices will be expanded to more grades in future years.

And, the district is also rolling out a new research-based math program for sixth- to eighth-graders next year.


  1. The district has a highly paid, full time, communications director, who's job it is to put a smiley face on its consistent pattern of failure.

  2. The Translator6/09/2009 11:11 AM

    For as good of a job you did on the SCJ tax issue, you guys sure are sugar coating the continued overall failure of Unified. I dont blame most (some but not most)of the teachers. I blame the administration for losing the socialization component that K-3 had 20 years ago and the some parents for not having their children ready for schooling, or realing caring about education.

  3. The Translator6/09/2009 11:12 AM

    sorry, s/b really

  4. The good news is that the KRM will fix all of this.

  5. This is an interesting spin on the report. If RUSD lowered the passing grades to 25% they would show even better progress.

    Unfortunately, the graduating high school students still would not understand what 25% means or stands for!

  6. The blame can be placed on the principals who don't enforce the rules and who fgail to suspend disruptive children.

    Most if Unified's Principals will not suspend because they do not want to "Look Bad" or they fear the parents will show backlash.

    The result... disruptive children in the classroom prevent our good students from learning. Yes one bad apple will ruin the whole bunch... Our principals need to be more accountable for NOT suspending kids and for NOT supporting the teachers.

    Unfortunately many Parents feel Unified should babysit rather than teach. Suspend these kids so our good kids have a better learning environment!

  7. Anon-simply said: the principals are afraid of parents protesting suspensions. Goto private school; only way to have any positive impact on our kids.