Thursday, March 31, 2011

WKCE results released; state budget hearings scheduled

I have been reviewing test data over the past days, because our WKCE results were released.   Our news release is here.  The short story is that our reading proficiency rates are up.  Math scores have slightly decreased (one percentage point).  We have more work to do to ensure all children achieve to high standards, and we will keep at it.
A lot of attention has been paid to the WKCE scores for the children in the voucher schools (the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program schools).  This is the first year that state standardized tests were given to voucher school students.  DPI reported the results here.   I think a couple of points have been made very clear with the WKCE scores. 
Firstly, voucher students need to continue taking the tests. Governor Walker’s proposed state budget wipes away the yearly assessment requirement for voucher schools.  We believe Milwaukee parents and students benefit from knowing how their schools perform, and that all schools should be accountable. 
Secondly, the WKCE results show students in voucher schools clearly lag behind those in MPS, even though these schools have fewer students with challenges.  Almost 20% (roughly 17,000) of MPS students have special education needs, but only approximately 1.5%, (a total of 444) voucher students do.  That means that all together, the 102 voucher schools are serving a special education population that is equal to what MPS serves in just one of its district schools:  Hamilton High School.  This disparity could have had an impact on our WKCE results, but our students continue to make progress, thanks to their hard work and the district’s consistent instruction.
The governor proposes to lift caps on voucher enrollment and income limits, and to eliminate testing for voucher schools while at the same time, proposes to de-fund the public education system that serves all children, regardless of their abilities -- a public education system that, based on test results, is serving children better. 

There is opportunity in the data.  This is the chance for all those involved in the decision-making to focus the discussion on what works best for kids.   The data released this week makes it very clear.

Speaking of that discussion, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will hold four public hearings on the governor’s two-year budget plan.  It appears there are no evening or weekend hearings, and that there are no sessions in Milwaukee, though there is a session scheduled at the State Fair Park Expo Center in West Allis on April 11.  Here’s the full list of meeting dates and locations.   I encourage you to attend a budget hearing, and get involved.