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Portage makes slight gains, meets expectations in school report cards

November 14, 2018

The Portage Community School District improved its overall score for the second straight year in state report cards released Tuesday.

Portage remains in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s category of “meets expectations” with an overall score of 67.6, up from its previous mark of 66.2.

Two years ago, the district received an overall score of 62.3, falling in the “meets few expectations” category.

“We’re obviously happy to see the improvement, but we’re not satisfied either,” said Matt Paulsen, Portage’s curriculum leader for grades 6-12. “As we dig into the data, we see some areas where we can improve.”

The Department of Public Instruction calculates its ratings according to four areas: student achievement in English language arts and math; student growth; closing gaps between student groups; and measuring readiness for graduation and post-secondary success.

The closing-gaps portion of the report card is particularly important for Portage when it comes to improving its overall score in the future, said Paulsen and Nikki Schoenborn, curriculum leader for grades PK-5. The closing-gaps portion factors the growth of various subgroups sorted by ethnicity, disabilities and economic standing.

Schoenborn said closing gaps and improving student performance relates to the district’s three main goals, which were laid out for the school board by Superintendent Margaret Rudolph in September. They include seeing every student accomplish at least one year of growth in every course area, improving student behaviors and providing more professional development for staff.

With an overall score of 68.1, Endeavor Elementary made the biggest jump among Portage schools during the 2017-18 school year. It had previously received an overall score of 51.9, landing it in the “fails to meet expectations” category.

Rusch and John Muir elementary schools remained in the category of “meets expectations” but significantly improved upon their previous scores of 63.8 and 66.7, respectively, climbing to 72.8 and 71.7. Rusch’s overall score is only 0.2 points short of “exceeding expectations.”

Lewiston Elementary for the second straight year is the only Portage school to exceed expectations, matching its overall score of 77.3 from the year before.

“We’re really proud of the growth we see in the three elementary schools and in how Lewiston continues to exceed expectations,” Schoenborn said.

Portage High School remained in the category of “meets expectations” with a score of 69.4, up from its previous mark of 69.1, while Woodridge Primary School and Portage Academy of Achievement for the second straight year received alternative ratings of “satisfactory progress.”

With an overall score of 68, Bartels Middle School is the only Portage school to see a decrease in its overall score after finishing with a score of 69.3 the year before, though the school still met expectations.

The Department of Public Instruction reported that about 84 percent of the state’s schools met or exceeded expectations this year, including all public and private choice schools. Of the state’s 422 school districts, 96 percent met or exceeded expectations.

In a press release, DPI noted that scores across the state are more stable this year thanks to three years of Forward Exam data for measuring student achievement, as opposed to comparing different tests.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to be one of the higher-performing school districts,” Portage Assistant Superintendent Peter Hibner said. “But it is only one assessment; not that it isn’t important, it is, but it’s always good to look at a number of assessments, and most importantly, the classroom assessments.”

Endeavor’s low state score last year demonstrates why it’s important to seek additional data, Hibner said, as the performance of only a couple of students in a particular subgroup can swing an overall score dramatically, up or down, when the sample size is small.

“Overall, Endeavor was actually doing very well that year,” Hibner said. “And not long before that, they were exceeding expectations” in state report cards.

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