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Seneca School Board receives news of high schools report card
Seneca School District

SENECA - In a brief meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 21, the Seneca School Board approved six students to take Youth Options courses at local technical colleges and other colleges.

The Youth Options Program requires, under state law, that school districts allow and pay the tuition for students to take advanced courses not offered in the local district.

The school board also approved the senior class trip to Cleveland, scheduled for August 27-30. While in Cleveland, the students will visit the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Football Hall of Fame, tour the USS Cod and attend a Cleveland Indians baseball game.

During the school district administrator’s report, the board heard some good news and some unsettling news, when it came to the the 2016-17 school report cards released this month by the Wisconsin Department Of Public Instruction.

The Seneca Area School District scored 78.0 and earned a rating of four out of five stars on the state report card. Based on the star rating, the Seneca Area School District ‘exceeds expectations’ for educating students, administrator Dave Boland explained.

The annual report cards are issued based on four priority areas: student achievement in English and mathematics, student growth, closing gaps between student populations and measures of readiness for graduation and postsecondary success.

When the district’s scores were broke down by grade levels, there were some surprises. The elementary school received a score of 85.5, which ‘significantly exceeds expectations’ and earns five stars. The middle school received a score of 72.8, which ‘meets expectations’ and earned a three-star rating. The real surprise came at the high school level. The high school received a score of 57.7, which ‘meets few expectations.’

“We are alarmed by the rating received by the high school,” Boland told the board.

However, the administrator explained later that the high school had not previously been on the report card because its size was too small for measurement by the DPI.

Despite not getting a public report card for the past three years, the calculations were done by DPI and the district had asked that they be shared internally so they could see if specific things could be addressed. However, the information was not shared.

The high school’s bad rating rested on the results of one standardized test, Boland noted. There were no other factors contributing to the low rating.

DPI acknowledged that the ratings on the report cards were jumping around a lot, according to Boland. The department explained that state legislators changed the way the measurements were done and it forced the department to interpret the results differently, changing consistency of the report cards.

The DPI released the following statement concerning this year’s school report cards:

“For the 2016-17 report cards, 162 schools and 24 districts had score fluctuations of 10 or more points in both overall and growth scores compared to 2015-16, which is larger variability than expected. Their report cards carry a ^ notation because it is unclear if the score change accurately reflects the amount of change in performance or a symptom of statistical volatility. Report card requirements in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 budget bill, mandated the use of value-added growth scoring and variable weighting based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school or district. Prior to Act 55, overall annual report card score change averaged 3.3 points. Since Act 55, the average score change is 5.8 points. Although volatility in value-added scores may decrease with another year of Forward testing, score fluctuations are likely to continue especially for small schools and districts as well as schools and districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The Department of Public Instruction is engaging with state policymakers, technical experts, and stakeholders about how best to address these issues. Any changes to school report cards growth or weighting calculations will require legislative action.” 

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• approved a shared service agreement with North Crawford for student transportation in order to share van transportation costs for a student attending New Frontiers in Prairie du Chien

• learned Seneca art teacher Cody Sime would like to have a spray booth installed in the art room-it is paid for by donations, but the school would be responsible for installation

• heard a reminder that the application window to fill out paperwork for running for the Seneca Area School Board is December 1 through January 2 at 5 p.m.

• accepted the resignation of assistant wrestling coach Brian Hagensick and hired Melissa Hagensick to replace him in that position-following a closed session discussion of the matter

• learned the elementary school holiday concert is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 4 at 1:45 p.m. with the middle/high school holiday concert scheduled for 7 p.m. that evening

The next regular meeting of the Seneca Area School Board is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.