Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reality Check - 2010-11 WKCE Scores

Last week, school district "Key Communicators" received via e-mail a Spin-o-gram announcing that,
"WKCE Results Well Above the State Averages"
Link to SPASD data on DPI site

Stating the obvious?
For those of you not on the coveted list, we didn't see this on the SPASD website, so we offer the key info at right.

How do we address this...let us count the ways.

Let's start with the "Well Above State Averages" claim
Our analysis? Where on earth did they pull that from? Did they even LOOK at the data? We did. Our first question is: "What exactly constitutes 'Well Above'?" We're thinking 20 or more percentage points. As in state average is 70%, Sun Prairie score is 90%. But maybe we're off base. Let's look at the numbers.

The way we see it, the numbers may not warrant the claim made. Only grade 10 students average a double digit (and barely) lead over the state average. Grades 4 and 8 average scores are only 4 and 5 percentage points higher than state averages. Not exactly what we'd call "well above". In fact, if you compare the 2010 data to 2009 results, it sure looks like the statewide average is gaining on us. But that's not something the district would ever shout from the mountaintops, now is it. We actually dug a little deeper and looked at comparisons over the past 5 years. district wide, our scores have consistently averaged only 3.8% to 5.1% better than the state averages. Consequently, we think it's a safer bet to declare that our scores are well above those of Madison...or Marshall...or Beloit. Saying that Sun Prairie scores are 'well above' state averages is kinda like saying that the Red Sox will win more games than the Brewers. It's kinda over-stating the obvious.

Comparing Sun Prairie to Other Dane Co Districts
Last year, Sun Prairie fared pretty well, ranking 7th overall in Dane Co. using our averaging system (averaging ranks in each of the 5 subject areas across grades 4, 8, and 10). This year, however, we slipped 5 spots to the #12 (out of 17) spot. We may be getting better, but it would seem that the other districts are getting better-ER. Our arch-nemesis, Middleton, remained steady in the #3 slot.
Grade 10, in fact, slipped most. Last year, 10th graders ranked 2nd in Dane Co. across all 5 subject areas. This year: 9th.
Looking at things a little differently, we can combine ranks of Grade 4,8, and 10 and review how Sun Prairie sits in terms of each of the 5 WKCE subject areas. From this angle, only in Social studies do we rank in the upper half--and just barely at #8. Our friends in Waunakee, McFarland, and Middleton take the #2,3,and 4 ranks. Like that proverbial mouse that churned the cream into butter and climbed its way out, little old Belleville rises to the top!

Newbie on the Block - 1st Wisconsin Virtual Academy Results
NOTE: We could not find this data on the DPI site. We used data presented by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Dane Co. Language Arts, Science Social studies scores
Dane Co. Reading & Math scores
This marks the first year that we include the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA)--which a number of Sun Prairie students attend-- in the Dane Co. ranks. The results are quite interesting. Overall, depending on whether you look at and average of all subjects across th3 3 grades, or whether you look at an average of all 3 grades across 5 subjects, "WIVA" ranks either 9th or 10th. Basically, middle of the pack, nothing to write home about.
WIVA fared pretty well in Reading, Language Arts, and Social Studies...not so good in Math and Science. In fact, the WIVA ranked last among Dane Co. districts in math at the grade 10 level, tieing with Madison at 75% proficient or advanced.
In Language Arts, 95% of 4th graders at the WIVA scored proficient or advanced, 84% of 8th graders, but only 55% of 10th graders.

Apples & Apples Time - Comparing Sun Prairie to Similar Sized School Districts
Now that we know how well we stack up against Dane Co, school districts, it's time to take a look at how we rate against schools our own size. We looked at the 20 districts closest in size--the 10 that are just larger, and the 10 that are just smaller.

Last year, Sun Prairie ranked 5th overall (tieing with Wauwautosa). Across all 5 subject areas, SPASD ranked 4th for grade 10, 7th for grade 8, and 9th for grade 4. Looking at grade 10 only, last year SP ranked 6th in Reading, 3rd in Math, 3rd in Language Arts, 6th in Science, and 3rd in social studies.

This year, unfortunately, Sun Prairie slides to either 9th or 11th (out of 21), depending on how you look at the results. Either way, that's just middle of the pack, and a fairly significant decline from last year.

That's a lot of data...we know. But take some time to let it sink in. We'll be looking at this from some other angles, but wanted you at least to get the full picture...not just the pretty "snapshots" offered by the district.
From our perspective, Sun Prairie may be improving, but all the other districts are improving as well...and at a faster pace than we are. Sure, a grade of "B" is great...but how does it look when everyone else is getting "B+" or better?