During the 2010 election campaign, Republican Scott Walker promised that if elected governor, he would create an "A-to-F” grading scale for measuring the quality of public schools.
"Schools should be graded just like students,” he said.
In August 2011, we rated this promise In the Works on our Walk-O-Meter, which tracks 65 promises Walker made as a candidate. In that item, we noted the work of a school accountability group formed a month earlier by Walker and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, an independently elected state official. At the time, Evers had not warmed to the idea of giving A-to-F grades.
Fast-forward to October 2012, when Evers' department released its first set of statewide school report cards.
The report cards cover four "priority areas":
Student Achievement – Performance on statewide tests in reading and mathematics.
Student Growth – Improvement over time on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts (WKCE) statewide test in reading and math.
Closing Gaps – Progress of certain subgroups of students in closing gaps in reading and math performance and/or graduation rates.
On-track and Postsecondary Readiness – Performance on key indicators of readiness for graduation and postsecondary pursuits, whether college or career.
Schools receive a score from 0 to 100 for each priority area:
83 - 100: Significantly Exceeds Expectations
73 - 82.9: Exceeds Expectations
63 - 72.9: Meets Expectations
53 - 62.9: Meets Few Expectations
0 - 52.9: Fails to Meet Expectations
So, the five levels of scoring bear a resemblance to the traditional A, B, C, D and F letter-grading system.
But the Department of Public Instruction says, in an admonition repeated by school districts, that "the 0 to 100 accountability index score is not a ‘percent correct' measurement, so the scores are not the same as grades.”
As for how the schools performed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
Statewide: Out of 1,877 schools that received a report card, 86 percent met or exceeded the state's expectations for performance. The other 266 schools rated fell below the state's expectations.
Milwaukee: 24 percent of schools met or exceeded the state's new performance expectations. That included 29 out of 138 schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools district and seven of 14 independent charter schools that operate outside of MPS.
Another set of report cards, reflecting data from the November 2012 round of WKCE testing, is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2013.
Walker promised an A-through-F grading system for schools, just like the system students face. He got a scoring system that is similar, but not the same. We rate this promise a Compromise.