Advanced Placement participation grew 10% in 10 years

From the Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin public school growth in the Advanced Placement (AP) program includes a 10 percent increase over 10 years in the percentage of graduates earning a qualifying score that gives them a head start on postsecondary studies.

AP_participationThe College Board’s report, “AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2016,” provides an estimate of public school graduates who took at least one AP exam during their high school career. Wisconsin had 21,270 graduates from 2016 (35.4 percent) who took 62,966 AP exams while in high school. Participation is up by 433 students from the class of 2015. For the state’s 2016 public school graduates, 24.8 percent earned a score of three or higher on an AP exam compared to 24.4 percent of 2015 graduates. Over 10 years, Wisconsin posted a 10-point increase in the percentage of graduates earning a three or higher on an AP exam. Wisconsin remains in the top dozen states nationwide for AP performance.

“High school students taking AP classes have a chance to experience college-level coursework and the expectations of postsecondary studies,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “The nationwide AP exams reinforce that rigor and offer improved opportunities for students to get a head start on college and career.”

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Evers’ budget plan boosts state funding of public schools

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From the Department of Public Instruction

State Superintendent Tony Evers submitted his 2017-19 budget request to the governor and Legislature Tuesday, outlining key fiscal priorities for students and schools in the upcoming years.

“This budget is about the state partnering with schools to prepare students for college and career,” said Evers. “From Winter to Waukesha, a greater state investment is the best way to demonstrate our shared commitment to kids and tackle persistent achievement gaps.”

The 2017-19 budget proposal represents an increase in funding of 2.7 percent in the first year of the biennium and another 5.4 percent in the second. The larger increase in the second year of the budget would bring equity to school funding through an updated version of the previously introduced “Fair Funding for Our Future.”

The funding reform proposal requests additional spending authority for all school districts to catch up with inflation and increased aid to hold property taxes flat. Fair Funding guarantees a minimum amount for every student ($3,000), incorporates a poverty factor for aid distribution (a 20% weight for impoverished students in the general aid count), and moves the School Levy Credit, First Dollar Credit, and High Poverty Aid to general aid to pay these funds directly to schools. While roughly 94 percent of districts benefit under the proposal, a hold harmless provision is included to ensure that all districts would receive the same dollar amount as under current law.

Additionally, Evers’ proposed increases in special education funding, expands supports for English learners and targets resources for rural schools. Finally, Evers recommends weighting the per pupil categorical aid to account for students in poverty, students learning English, and students in foster care.

“Over the past four years, we have seen an increased reliance on referenda to help keep the lights on,” Evers continued. “Around the state, local communities have taken the lead on funding reform through the ballot box, but the state has to be a good partner and do our share to help small town schools.”

The budget proposal targets funding to increase school-based mental health, including funding for mental health and social workers in schools; grants for school-community collaborations around mental health services in schools; and training of educators and school staff in Mental Health First-Aid, Trauma Sensitive Schools, and school-based Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT).

The budget includes proposals that will support rural schools and communities across the state. Evers is asking for a new teacher retention program that would provide funds for districts that qualify for sparsity aid to use for recruiting and retaining staff. Changes to the Sparsity Aid program are also included to alleviate the fiscal cliff districts face when their enrollment hits the program’s participation cap. New dollars for transportation funding, which disproportionately impacts small districts with long bus routes, are included as well.

“In talking with legislative leaders, the governor, and my fellow agency heads in Wisconsin, I am optimistic that we can work together to ensure every small-town kid has access to a quality education and to improve mental health service to our youth,” said Evers.

Finally, Evers’ budget continues the commitment to summer learning so districts large and small can expand summer programming to give gifted students more opportunities to accelerate their learning and to help struggling students catch up to their peers. The proposal will allow districts to count students enrolled in summer school in a similar fashion to regular school year counts and increase the transportation reimbursement for summer learning.

“Changes to summer school counts and transportation build on the work we began with our administrative rule changes,” said Evers. “Districts are looking to innovate and lead in exciting ways, and I am committed to clearing any administrative hurdles that stand in their way. Summer school programming is moving in exciting directions and is a powerful approach to help all kids reach their full potential.”

In total, the Department of Public Instruction 2017-19 budget request amounts to a $707 million increase in funding over the biennium, not including statutorily constructed increases for all parental choice program and independent charter school payments. Over $500 million of that figure goes toward general school aids to provide property tax relief and to implement the Fair Funding for Our Future finance reform plan. The remaining roughly $200 million is targeted toward programs that directly impact the needs of students.

Evers proposes rules to accelerate summer learning opportunities

From the Department of Public Instruction

Children and education, young woman at work as educator reading book to boys and girls in park

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Wednesday proposed administrative rule changes that will expand high-quality summer learning opportunities for kids.

“Over the course of the past school year, I convened Milwaukee area community, school, and business leaders to promote fun summer learning,” Evers said. “Through that work, we identified several changes to how the department oversees summer programming, and I’m excited to implement those flexibilities so schools can accelerate summer learning opportunities in their communities.”

The proposed rules will give school districts new funding flexibility by clarifying that federal funds can be used to support summer learning and allowing open enrollment students to be counted in summer school membership. Under the proposed rules, academic field trips, musical performances, and agricultural and other scholastic competitions would be eligible activities for summer instruction, just as they are during the regular school year. The proposed rules also would eliminate several barriers to collaborative programs developed by local schools that serve kids through community and business partners.

“There is tremendous momentum in our state around expanding summer learning opportunities,” continued Evers. “I have heard from school leaders, the business community, and a growing number of elected leaders from both parties that the desire to collaborate on ways to increase summer learning is tangible. I hope this action can serve as an important first act,” he said.

Building on this work, Evers’ 2017-19 biennial budget request will include several initiatives to increase state support for summer learning. These include improving funding by allowing districts to fully count summer school students, expanding access by increasing the transportation reimbursement rate, and expanding dual enrollment opportunities for students to take advanced coursework in person or online. The budget request also will seek to simplify reporting requirements to reduce schools’ administrative work for summer learning programs. Evers said that the goal of the proposed rules and budget proposals will be to ensure that local communities can create partnerships and programing that best fit local student needs.

State Supreme Court sides with superintendent on rule-making authority

The Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday rejected an attempt by Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature to usurp power from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In a 4-3 ruling, the court upheld and preserved the Superintendent’s constitutional role in supervising public instruction in Wisconsin, consistent with longstanding precedent.

The ruling struck down key parts of Act 21, passed in 2011, which gave the governor’s office more input on the administrative rules written by state agencies.

Justice Michael Gableman, writing for a 4-3 majority, wrote that the State Constitution requires the “Legislature to keep the supervision of public instruction in the hands of the officers of supervision of public instruction.”

“Thus, Act 21 unconstitutionally vests the supervision of public instruction in officers who are not officers of supervision of public instruction,” Gableman wrote.

Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser concurred with Gableman. Chief Justice Pat Roggensack was joined by Justices Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler in a dissent.

The Supreme Court ruling upheld earlier rulings by a Dane County court and a State Court of Appeals.

State Superintendent Tony Evers welcomed the ruling, calling it “a victory for public education and the future of our state.”

“It is a reflection of the value our public schools provide to communities across Wisconsin and the importance of having an independent state superintendent oversee that system,” Evers said. “Despite the rhetoric suggesting otherwise, this case was about maintaining the administrative rule-making authority that is shared between the Legislature and the nonpartisan, elected state superintendent. That relationship has existed since the foundation of our state and has contributed to the success of our public school system.

“More than anything else, this ruling provides much needed stability for our schools and the students they serve. I hope we can now get back to focusing on what works best for our kids.”

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Supreme Court rules against Scott Walker, preserves state Superintendent’s authority

The state’s highest court on Wednesday preserved the state Superintendent Tony Evers’ authority over public schools, ruling against Gov. Scott Walker and a 2011 law he signed that requires state agencies to seek approval from the governor before creating new administrative rules to carry out policies, regulations and laws.

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School food service workers play important role in student achievement, Evers says

Public schools in Wisconsin have made food service programs “part and parcel of their academic program and really marry the two in a way that helps students become better achievers and better adults,” State Superintendent Tony Evers says in a video that launches a new campaign from the Department of Public Instruction called “Wisconsin School Meals Rock.” 

In the video, Evers applauds food service workers: “Our food service workers interact with almost every student every day, from kindergarten through 12th grade, and they do a great job of providing good nutritious food but they also connect in a positive way with good adult-kid relationships, and they make or break it with a lot of kids. My hats off to the people who work in food service in Wisconsin. They knock it out of the park!”

The state superintendent’s message was filmed at Plymouth High School, where students can be seen helping themselves to student-grown lettuce and arugula, locally sourced cheese panini, and slow-roasted pork tacos created by the district’s executive chef.

The launch of the Wisconsin School Meals Rock campaign is a fitting observation of National School Breakfast Week which began on Monday.

One of the campaign’s primary goals is to encourage use of innovative, new practices to create school breakfasts and lunches that are not only nutritious but delicious. In doing so, the campaign will feature schools that are trying exciting things with their school meals.

The video can be seen below and found on the new Wisconsin School Meals Rock webpage, http://dpi.wi.gov/school-nutrition/wisconsin-school-meals-rock.

Wisconsin among top dozen states for AP performance

From the Department of Public Instruction

Wisconsin continued its steady growth in the Advanced Placement (AP) program, with more students taking rigorous, college-level coursework while in high school and more graduates earning a qualifying score that gives them a head start on postsecondary studies.

The College Board’s report, “AP Cohort Data: Graduating Class of 2015,” showed that Wisconsin had 20,825 public school graduates, or 35.3 percent of the class of 2015, who took 59,426 AP exams while in high school. Participation is up by 966 students from the class of 2014. For the state’s 2015 graduates, 24.7 percent earned a score of three or higher on an AP exam compared to 23.6 percent of 2014 graduates. Wisconsin remains in the top dozen states nationwide for AP performance.

“The Advanced Placement Program provides our kids with college-level coursework that exposes them to the rigors of higher education while they are still in high school,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We’re continuing to see growth in participation and achievement, which is a good place to be. I’m very proud of our teachers for their efforts to prepare our young people to be successful on these college-level exams.”

The Advanced Placement program offers 37 courses, which conclude with an end-of-year exam. Students who earn a score of three or higher on the five-point scale may receive college credit, advanced standing, or both from most colleges and universities. The College Board estimates that Wisconsin’s public school graduates and their families will save about $35.5 million in college costs through qualifying AP exams. The calculation assumes three credits for each AP exam scored three or higher and an average cost for in-state tuition and fees of $293.83 per credit.

More than 1.1 million of the nation’s 2015 graduates took an AP exam during their high school careers. They represent 37.3 percent of the 2,973,914 public school graduates in the class of 2015. The percentage of graduates nationwide who scored three or higher on an AP exam was 22.4 percent.

Students from low-income families represent 13.5 percent of Wisconsin’s AP exam-takers for the 2015 cohort. By comparison, for the class of 2010, 8.1 percent of AP exam-takers were from low-income families and in 2005, just 4.4 percent of low-income public school graduates took an AP exam. Wisconsin law requires that school districts pay the cost of Advanced Placement exam fees for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals under federal income guidelines.

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Evers praises perseverance, resilience, and grit of Wisconsin students and educators

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From the Department of Public Instruction

In his State of Education address at the Capitol in Madison Thursday, State Superintendent Tony Evers praised Wisconsin’s students and educators for their perseverance, resilience, and grit.

“They are able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions and do incredible things,” he said. “Some wonderful things have been happening in our public schools and libraries,” he added. “In the coming year, we need to stay focused, obnoxiously positive, and work together to educate every child, ensuring they are college and career ready.”

WEAC President Betsy Kippers, who attended the event as an invited guest, said Evers “took a stand for teachers and education support professionals.”

“Public schools open the door of opportunity to all students, and the educators who work in them offer those students our complete dedication,” Kippers said. “Dr. Evers, a teacher, understands that. Politicians and corporate reformers don’t get it. We thank the state superintendent for taking this opportunity to celebrate educators’ resilience and for honoring them for answering the call to teach.”

Evers’ speech looked back at the past year and laid out accomplishments and challenges facing the education community. He highlighted continuing work on Promoting Excellence for All, which includes new materials, videos, learning modules, and recommendations for engaging families and communities in the work of closing achievement gaps. His Parent Advisory Council members have spent the past year articulating their own tips to give a parent’s perspective on Promoting Excellence for All strategies.

Looking Back

Evers noted that the best part of his job is visiting schools and meeting kids, educators, school leaders, and families. In his dozens of visits he said he has never once been disappointed in the dedication of Wisconsin’s educators and the engagement of students.

“We have a lot to be proud of in Wisconsin. I consistently see parent involvement, great leadership, and a supportive business community.” “In every year since the 2009-10 school year:

  • The graduation rate, including graduation for students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are economically disadvantaged has increased.
  • Fewer students, including students of color, have dropped out of high school.
  • Fewer students were being suspended or expelled.
  • The truancy rate has decreased.
  • Student attendance has increased.
  • Students reported less alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use.
  • Students spent more time being physically active.
  • More students are participating in co-curricular academic activities and athletic activities.
  • More students are receiving college credit for coursework they do in high school.”

“…[T]hese steps forward are due to the perseverance, grit, and resilience of our students and educators.”

Challenges along the Way

Evers noted that parent and citizen groups had a huge impact on school funding in the recently enacted budget and applauded them for standing up for strong public schools.

“We cannot continue to neglect our obligation to provide students with a fundamental right to an equal opportunity for a sound basic education. The school funding system in Wisconsin has changed in the past 20 years, and we can no longer say that all our students are receiving that basic right.”

“Now, we have both worked with and disagreed with Governor Walker and legislative leaders on numerous issues in the past five years. At the end of the day, most people think that schools are doing good things for kids in Wisconsin. That will continue to be the focus of our work.”

Mentioning current political events, Evers called it unfortunate that a single legislator has introduced another divisive distraction directed at our schools. “The founders of our state believed the duties and the direct election of a state superintendent of public instruction to be so important they enshrined those powers in the constitution. That action helped to create a strong system of public schools that are the envy of many states across the country. Taking that vote away from parents and other folks at the local level is a sad attack at the heart of our democracy and our state’s history.”

Moving Forward

Educators have been working for years on initiatives that are part of Agenda 2017, the goal of every child a graduate ready for college or careers. Evers noted as a result of the difficult work:

“We have raised our expectations in terms of college and career ready standards.

“We have updated our state assessment system from an outdated paper and pencil test to something that is more useful and measures the increased rigor in our classrooms.

“We have implemented more efficient and effective ways to collect, display, and examine data, and are developing new tools to use that will improve instruction.

“We have begun the difficult task of defining what it means to be a highly effective educator and school leader, as well as what it means to have a highly effective school and district. Our accountability system must be about supporting improvement at the educator, school, and district level. It is not about punishing educators or shaming schools.”

Evers defined college and career readiness, saying “Our vision for college and career readiness is not a political fad, and it is not just about academic preparation. Meeting proficiency on a statewide summative test is important, but it is not all that we want for our kids.

“The Wisconsin way of college and career readiness also values social and emotional competence and includes the skills and habits we collectively value. Our graduates must be critical thinkers, communicate effectively, collaborate with others, and use creativity to solve real problems. Our kids must also persist and adapt to survive difficult times that are inevitable in life.”

He added that the future of our state depends on the success of our schools in these non-tested areas and in political and school leaders finding common ground that unites our efforts on behalf of Wisconsin’s students.

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Cultivate family and community engagement to boost student achievement, Evers says

From the Department of Public Instruction

Evers_200px“Families are our biggest allies in our work to increase student learning and close achievement gaps so all students graduate college and career ready,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said Thursday in reviewing recommendations from his Parent Advisory Council.

Evers presented the report during his state education address at the State Capitol. The State Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council examined the Promoting Excellence for All initiative, taking a fresh and deeper look at how Wisconsin schools can engage families of the lowest-performing students so they are partners in their children’s success.

While Wisconsin schools have many strengths, assessment and graduation data consistently confirm achievement gaps for students of color, economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

“To change achievement gaps that exist in too many of our schools throughout the state, we must cultivate family and community engagement practices that validate families as experts on their children and partners in their students’ success,” Evers said. “The work of effective instruction, positive student and teacher relationships, and school and instructional leadership hinges on strong partnerships with families. We all have a role to play in closing achievement gaps.”

With the start of a new school year, the report from the Parent Advisory Council encourages schools and educators to ask what more can be done to tap into families’ innate desires to help children and young people succeed in school. Council members recommend that schools “accept families as they are and make frequent efforts to know, listen to, and learn from parents.”

According to the council, schools must connect families to student learning in a variety of ways throughout the year. To make families partners and decision makers in closing student achievement gaps, successful schools:

• recognize and build upon students’ unique cultural and family strengths, • communicate regularly with families in their languages and invite families to share their knowledge and needs, (more) Family and Community Engagement – Page 2 • create multiple ways for all families to gain skills and knowledge that support children’s learning and achieve school goals, and • help families become aware of and use community resources that prepare every child to be college and career ready.

Evers encouraged educators to explore the Parent Advisory Council report, which is part of the Promoting Excellence for All website.

“Ask parents, grandparents, and community members what they need to support children’s learning. Enlist their help in building relationships that help close achievement gaps,” he said. “Our children are so precious.”

The State Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council is made up of parents, grandparents, and community members who are representative of the geographic and cultural diversity of Wisconsin’s public school students.

MTEA member Mai Xiong is Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year

State Superintendent Tony Evers presents AAL educator Mai Xiong with the 2015 Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year.

State Superintendent Tony Evers presents AAL educator Mai Xiong with the 2015 Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year.

First-grade teacher and MTEA member Mai Xiong was named Wisconsin Elementary School Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony today at MPS’ Academy of Accelerated Learning (AAL).

State Superintendent Tony Evers told students and staff who were gathered for the assembly, “All great schools have one thing in common: great teachers. One of the star teachers in our state is here at AAL. Please help me welcome and honor the 2015 Elementary Teacher of the Year, Mai Xiong.”

MTEA president Kim Schroeder recognized and congratulated Xiong, presenting her with an MTEA tote bag and an MTEA “standing strong” t-shirt.

As Xiong accepted the award, she acknowledged her students and colleagues. “Every day I come to school, I see smiles, I see children who are eager to learn. I give credit to all of my colleagues. They have helped me develop into the teacher that I am today. This award is not only my award, it’s the award of all the children here as well as all my colleagues.”

Looking out into the audience, Xiong realized that her parents and other relatives were also present to celebrate the occasion, and recognized the importance of their support as well.

Xiong began her teaching career at MPS’ Story School in 1998, and has been at AAL since 1999. As someone for whom English was a second language, she is passionate about improving education for children who are English language learners. She also stresses the importance of integrating parents into their children’s education: “I believe a student’s number one teacher is the parent, and educational success is most achievable when there is evident teamwork between parents, teachers, and community.”

After the award ceremony, Xiong said, “I never thought I would receive an award for doing what I love.”

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Evers introduces budget, calls for ‘reinvesting in our schools’

From the Department of Public Instruction

“Across the state in school districts large and small, urban and rural, we’ve heard that Wisconsin’s school funding system is broken. It’s not serving our state well,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers as he introduced his 2015-17 state education budget. “By reinvesting in our schools, we can create a path to prosperity for our children, our citizens, and our future,” he added.

The budget centerpiece, “Fair Funding for Our Future,” contains a number of provisions to fix the funding formula by investing in all students, protecting rural and declining enrollment districts, making adjustments in the aid formula to account for poverty, providing property tax relief, and increasing general school aid.

The Fair Funding plan is woven into the state superintendent’s larger budget, which increases funding for students with disabilities, invests in rural schools, supports English language learners, bolsters transitions to postsecondary opportunities and other targeted learning offerings, and supports public libraries. The budget also includes responsible revenue limit growth, tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The revenue limit adjustment would be $200 per pupil in the first year of the budget and $204 per pupil in 2016-17.

“Wisconsin has a long and proud tradition of strong public schools and libraries,” Evers said. “My budget supports those priorities.”

WEAC President Betsy Kippers said it is time for an education budget that supports children in their neighborhood public schools, and Evers’ budget proposal can get us there.

“We call on elected leaders to embrace Dr. Evers’ plan for equitable public school funding instead of using tax dollars to bankroll unaccountable private voucher schools,” Kippers said.

Overall, the budget makes important investments in vital categorical aid programs, which includes special education and high-cost special education aid; bilingual-bicultural aid; Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) funding; and grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), gifted and talented education, and tribal language revitalization. New aid programs in the second year of the budget would provide $100 per student to all districts with English language learners, award $2 million in grants for district safety programs, and provide $1 million for matching grants for digital content and software.

Additionally, the budget focuses on career readiness for all students with $4 million for career pathways to boost students’ occupational skills.

“Agenda 2017 is our goal to ensure all students graduate college and career ready,” Evers said. The budget proposes $5.8 million for transition and incentive grants and $1.5 million for job development grants to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.

“Increasing support for students with disabilities and students learning English is frankly, the right thing to do,” Evers stressed. His budget represents the first increase in special education funding since 2008 and would address school district costs that have increased each year while state funding for students with disabilities has been frozen. Bilingual-bicultural aid has been cut repeatedly and is lower now than in 2005, even though this student population is growing rapidly.

While implementing Fair Funding is a critical first step to restoring stability to rural schools, the education budget would also improve transportation, sparsity, and high-cost transportation aid programs, to address the disproportionate impact these issues have on rural schools. Rural districts educate more than 40 percent of the state’s students and are the lifeblood of their communities.

“If our rural schools close up shop, we are so much the poorer for it,” Evers said.

Aid re-estimates required in statute for the three voucher programs and independent charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine will call for increases in funding in both years of the biennium.

A 2015-17 Biennial Budget Highlights document and the Department of Public Instruction’s full 2015-17 budget request can be found online at http://pb.dpi.wi.gov/.