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All seven school districts in the North Shore suburbs either exceeded expectations or significantly exceeded expectations on the Department of Public Instruction's school report cards in the 2015-2016 school year.

The report cards, which were released Nov. 17, calculated its accountability ratings based on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, student growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of readiness for graduation and post-secondary success,

More than 82 percent of public schools and 91 percent of districts in Wisconsin met or exceeded the state's expectations for educating students. Across the state, 54 school districts significantly exceeded expectations, 187 districts exceeded expectations, 144 met expectations, 33 districts met few expectations and five districts failed to meet expectations.

The 2015-16 report cards are based on major changes that were included in the 2015-17 state budget. Though they provide a snapshot of school and district performance, the DPI stressed that 2015-16 report cards are not comparable to report cards issued in prior years and do not represent a full picture of the work taking place in schools throughout the state.

Local results

Districts that received a score between 83 and 100 were designated as significantly exceeding expectations. Those districts are Fox Point-Bayside (90.5) and Whitefish Bay (89).

In a statement, the Whitefish Bay School District said the school report cards are just one source of information about the district, and do not include other priorities, such as whole child development, 21st century learning skills and student's ability to chase their learning and passion.

"Although we are extremely proud of our report cards, the Whitefish Bay School District is committed to continue to use state and local assessment data to close achievement gaps, monitor our progress on college and career readiness standards and expectations, and to increase the performance of all students to ensure we continue to be an “exceptional place to learn," the district said in a statement.

Shorewood barely missed the top ranking with a score of 82.8, which placed the district in the "exceeded expectations" category. The state penalized Lake Bluff Elementary School 10 points for not reaching 80 percent participation in the voluntary testing. Atwater Elementary and Shorewood Intermediate schools were penalized five points for not reaching 95 percent participation.

Tim Joynt, the district's curriculum and instruction director, said the district was pleased with the state's rating, but saw room for improvement in the student growth category, particularly in mathematics. Joynt believes that number will increase in the future, due to the new Common Core-aligned math curriculum that was implemented this school year.

In addition to the areas prioritized on school report cards, Joynt said the district also prioritizes authentic learning, student wellness and character and citizenship development. Those areas are more difficult to measure on a school report card, he said.

Other North Shore districts that exceeded expectations include Maple Dale-Indian Hill (79.6), Glendale-River Hills (79.1), Nicolet (76.1) and Brown Deer (75).

District officials at Nicolet High School and its three K-8 partner districts said they have worked collaboratively over the past two and a half years, including shared learning and professional development, alignment of curriculum review and development across all districts, implementation of in-classroom coaching models to support continued teacher development and high-quality instruction and partnerships to support the transition from 8th grade to 9th grade. The administrators from each district meet at least once per month.

In a joint statement, officials from the four districts said there are many indicators that the schools and districts use to ensure students are college and career ready.

"In addition to state measures, the districts utilize local assessments to more closely monitor student performance in English language arts and mathematics as well as other subject areas," district officials state. "Each district also uses progress monitoring assessments to ensure that interventions are accelerating student progress toward proficiency."

Closing gaps

In addition to student growth, achievement and post-secondary readiness, school districts are increasingly paying attention to the fourth priority area on the school report cards: closing the achievement gap between English language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities and minorities and their peers.

All North Shore school districts discuss the achievement gap through the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium, which is a partnership between Milwaukee-area schools and Concordia University.

In Shorewood, Joynt said employees in Shorewood schools are undertaking a professional development called RaceWorks that is intended to open up conversation around races and differences in academic achievements by race. Shorewood implemented the RaceWorks program this school year.

Here's how each North Shore school districts fared in the DPI's "closing the gaps" category: Glendale-River Hills (84.5), Fox Point-Bayside (83), Whitefish Bay (72.3), Shorewood (70.9), Brown Deer (69.7), Maple Dale-Indian Hill (66.7) and Nicolet (60.5).

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