Dane County Realtors – Check Out These School Rankings, ’13 – ’14 Edition

A year ago, I wrote a blog post for the benefit of local realtors that ranked by school district the relative performance on the WKCE test of non-low income students attending public schools in Dane County. That post proved popular.   Scores from last fall’s administration of the WKCE came out this week, so I am updating the rankings to reflect the new scores.

And yes, I am uncomfortable ranking schools on the basis of the performance of students who are not low income, given the gaping disparities in academic achievement we face in Madison and our pressing need to address those disparities aggressively and effectively.

But, as I wrote last year, the fact is that we in Madison lose a lot of students to open enrollment into neighboring school districts. There is a perception among some that students who are not low income can get a better education in other school districts, where teachers may not have to meet the needs of as wide a range of learners as we have in Madison. These tables provide information that can allow folks to draw their own conclusions about that.

My conclusions are similar to last year. As I wrote previously, by and large, students who are not low income are doing fine in our Madison schools, whether in comparison to other students in Dane County or to students statewide. In addition, attending our richly diverse schools provides our students undeniable benefits in terms of cultural competency and interpersonal skills. Because we are the largest school district in the county and have established and will continue to forge great partnerships with Madison organizations, our Madison students also have some terrific opportunities that simply aren’t available in other school districts. Realtors have no reason to direct newcomers elsewhere. 

We also have plenty of room for improvement, of course, and we’re working on it. I’ve already made some inquiries to see if there are any common threads in the instruction in Middleton and Waunakee that help explain the two district’s strong showings in math. Kudos to them for setting the bar high.

For some reason, the Department of Public Instruction has made access to the data these tables are based on less accessible this year. I had to download the whole data dump of WKCE results for the entire state to ferret out the figures I needed. One benefit of that is that I discovered that the Deerfield school district is in Dane County, so I’ve added their results this year.

Caveats apply: WKCE isn’t much of a test but it is all we have to base these sorts of comparisons on. The test was administered in the fall and so does not measure learning that has taken place this year. There’s a lot more to a well-rounded curriculum than reading and math.  But just as we shouldn’t ignore that which can’t be quantified, we should also make such use as we can of the data that we have.

First, let’s take a look at the percentages of non-low income students in Dane County schools who scored at the proficient or advanced level on the WKCE reading test. The following chart ranks 16 Dane County school districts on this basis, with the state average also included to provide some perspective:

13-14 Reading P&A Chart2

Next, let’s take a look at students who are higher achieving, at least by WKCE standards. The following chart lists the percentages of non-low-income students who scored in the advanced range on the WKCE reading test:

13-14 WKCE Reading  vanced Chart1

And here are the same charts for math. First, percentages of students who scored at the proficient or advanced level:

13-14 WKCE Math P&A Chart4

This last chart ranks school districts by the percentages of their non-low income students who scored at the advanced level on the WKCE math test:

Chart3a Chart3This is the last year for the WKCE in Wisconsin and so the last year of these charts. Next year we’ll be moving to the Smarter Balanced Assessment which is to be keyed to the Common Core state standards.  Here’s hoping it turns out to be a sensible and well-designed assessment that provides a reasonably accurate measure of student learning, though early experience in other states is not promising.

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3 Responses to Dane County Realtors – Check Out These School Rankings, ’13 – ’14 Edition

  1. Nelson says:

    These data show that many kids are doing well in Madison schools (great!),
    but they say little, if anything, about school quality and shouldn’t be used to make larger claims (e.g. Madison schools are great), since similarly weak evidence can be conjured up in support of the opposite point.

    For example, a high-income, well-educated family might look at the percentage of students in each school who are National Merit Scholars, and find that Middleton and Madison West have more, proportionally, than LaFollete and Madison East, and more top-scorers on the ACT, as well! Does this mean that Middleton and West have a better educational method, or that our hypothetical family’s kid would do worse at East or LaFollete?

    Probably not. The real reason is that the families that send kids to West or Middleton and live in these neighborhoods are more likely to do well because of family characteristics like wealth, profession & parent’s education.

    An better way to examine this would be to look at the top ACT or AP scores in each school. My hunch is that the top scores do not very much from school to school, which shows that a very bright kid can do well in any of our Madison schools!

    And, maybe I’m skeptical, but an attempt to find some great method of Math instruction at Middleton and Waunakee seems likely to find nothing but a higher proportion of students who are better at math for other reasons. As Torrey pointed out in a previous article, data on educational results is very tricky.

  2. concerned parent says:

    why are you letting summer school enrichment students be chosen by attendance data and behavior data?
    is this about looking good number wise?
    couldn’t these students scores be low and need support?
    wouldn’t it be best to choose students based on closing the Gap figures?

  3. Mary Kay Battaglia says:

    http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/wisconsin?int=9abb08

    This was posted on my Facebook page last night by a Proud Middleton Parent. While I hate these rankings I always find fascinating the % low income, minority we have in our schools. While MMSD did not make the list, the MMSD file on the left is full of evaluations, La Fallotte needs so much work, East doing some great things but still needs work, but West and especially Memorial does show up well with students that take AP courses and work towards college. The racial gap seems to be the issue we are not be able to resolve. We clearly have room to improve!

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