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By The Numbers… Prime Metrics – FC vs. WI

I’m going to be making a series of posts looking over the metrics that the DPI has provided, and comparing Fall Creek to both the state as a whole, as well as to other individual districts, to see where we stack up, and to see where we do well, and where we don’t.

I will start this series by looking at the overall five main metrics provided by the DPI, and here is a refresher from my DPI page:

  • Overall Accountability Score – which is based upon a calculation derived from the other four scores
  • School/Student Achievement Score – students’ level of knowledge and skills attained compared against state academic standards in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics
  • School/Student Growth Score – how rapidly students are gaining knowledge and skills from year to year, focusing on the pace of improvement in students’ performance
  • School/Student Target Group Outcomes Score (known in previous years as the “Closing Gaps” Score) – outcomes for students with the lowest test scores in their school – the Target Group. Outcomes are displayed for achievement, growth, chronic absenteeism, and attendance or graduation rate
  • School/Student School On-Track (to Graduation) and Postsecondary Readiness Score – how successfully students are achieving educational milestones that predict later success

Fall Creek Elementary School

Overall Accountability – Fall Creek Elementary started off slightly above the overall State Average in 2011 (when they started keeping track of these things). It then started to far surpass the state average, peaking in the 2016-2017 school year, until losing steam and meeting back up with the state in the last few years. Notably, this trend began before COVID hit.
School/Student Achievement Score – FCE has been consistently above State Average in terms of Student Achievement. This shows that the school is excellent at teaching the fundamentals of “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic”.
School/Student Growth Score – Note from the description of this metric that it has nothing to do with how much the school itself grows, but rather, how good the school is at slowly improving students’ skills over time, from year to year, and building on previous foundations laid. Ideally, as with most metrics, we want to see this slowly increase over time in a consistent manner. However, unlike the State Average, which is doing this, the Elementary’s track record of improving students’ skills from year to year is… inconsistent. This suggests to me that there is some inconsistency in the curriculum from year to year. It doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but it does open up some questions… such as: “What’s changing year to year?” “Is staff consistent?” “Is there proper handoff from one teacher to the next of knowledge of students’ capabilities?” These are the questions we (and the school), should be asking of ourselves.
School/Student Target Group Outcomes Score (known in previous years as the “Closing Gaps” Score) – These results show us that Fall Creek Elementary is very good at “closing the gaps” between the higher achievers and lower achievers. This is excellent. Nothing more to comment on here, except the expected dip with the onset of COVID.
School/Student School On-Track (to Graduation) and Postsecondary Readiness Score – Now, you wouldn’t think that this has any relevance to an Elementary School, but that would be incorrect. It’s important for students to be achieving certain FUNDAMENTAL milestones by certain times, to be successful in future grades, and all the way into college. The Elementary School has shown that it is EXCELLENT when it comes to facilitating the achievement of these milestones.

Conclusion – Overall, it appears that Fall Creek Elementary is doing fairly well, with the possible exception of the “hand-off” of students from one year to the next. We should consider how to better improve that and make that aspect of our children’s education a bit more stable.

Fall Creek Middle School

Overall Accountability Score – Fall Creek Middle started off the last decade in a rough place in terms of overall accountability. From 2012-2016, it was well below State Average. Then, as you can see, there was a dramatic improvement starting in the 2017-2018 school year. Then after a few good years, an expected COVID dip. We’ll need to watch this going forward and see if the school can bring that back up again.
School/Student Achievement Score – As with the Elementary School, the Middle School has been solidly slightly above State Average when it comes to teaching the basic, core, crucial subjects. This is a very good thing.
School/Student Growth Score – The Middle School has an ABYSMAL record when it comes to students being able to build on their previous year’s education. This suggests to me that the Middle School needs to spend a lot of time focusing on what they can do to prevent Summer Learning Loss, and to keep kids growing their skills beyond rehashing what they learned the last year.
School/Student Target Group Outcomes Score (known in previous years as the “Closing Gaps” Score) – The Middle School has had a poor record at the beginning of the last decade with getting lower achieving students “caught up” with the high achievers. This started to improve in the 2017-2018 school year, until a COVID dip. The Middle School needs to work harder to keep pushing this up, and to make sure that those students that have a harder time get the support that they need.
School/Student School On-Track (to Graduation) and Postsecondary Readiness Score – As you can tell, this has been a “roller-coaster” for the Middle School. The decade started off great, then had a drastic drop to below average when the State started to improve, and then started bringing this up again until COVID. Let’s hope that it can push past the pandemic and get our Middle Schoolers back on track to graduate!

Conclusion – The Middle School has had a very hard time in the last decade with keeping its students’ education and skill levels from “slipping” from year to year, and has also in the recent past had troubles with getting students to the milestones necessary for successful graduation and being prepared for what lies beyond that. It has improved recently in saving “Target” students, and getting those students what they need to catch up to others, but we need the school to push past the “COVID dip”.

Fall Creek High School

Overall Accountability Score – The High School started off doing well, but then had an extreme nose dive for a period of three school years, before starting to bring itself back up again. It’s now positioned to do much better than average in a post-COVID world. Let’s hope it can keep it that way, and we don’t have any further dips!
School/Student Achievement Score – It appears that the High School has been “dancing” with the State Average in regards to the fundamentals. There’s not much to say here, except that it appears that the High School has been consistently “middle of the road” when it comes to teaching the basics. We can’t complain, but we don’t really have much to be proud of in this category.
School/Student Growth Score – For some reason, we have no data on this metric from before 2018. I did a double check, and it appears that the DPI was not recording this metric for about 2/3rds of the High Schools until that year. This is slightly concerning, because we can’t use this metric to see how well students have been retaining and building on their knowledge from previous years.
School/Student Target Group Outcomes Score (known in previous years as the “Closing Gaps” Score) – As with Student Growth scores, Fall Creek High was one of the 2/3rds of high schools where this data wasn’t recorded until 2018. However, it is good to see that in the two school years that the data for these two scores were measured, the school has substantially improved above and beyond State Average. Let’s hope it can keep it that way. This is the score that I’m going to be watching most carefully over the next few years, because it’s at the high school level where we’ll see the results of almost a decade of education in the district, to see if the schools can catch those that “fall between the cracks” and push them back up to ensure that they get the same education, the same chances, as those high achievers that things come more naturally to. It is far too easy for those that “fall behind” to stay behind and diverge further.
School/Student School On-Track (to Graduation) and Postsecondary Readiness Score – Here is a place where we can be PROUD of our High School. It does a very good job (at least since 2013) of getting our students what they need to push them out the door and set them up for success in post-secondary education. I am very happy to see that Fall Creek looks like it’s working it’s way to the top of the list of schools that get their kids graduated and pushed on to college!

Conclusion – Our High School is good at getting students graduated and ready for college, but we don’t have a lot of data to determine a whole lot else about it. I suspect that this lack of data is what has caused the school’s Overall Accountability to swing drastically and rapidly in both directions over the years. I hope that with the other two metrics starting to be collected, we’ll have a better picture in a few years’ time about where our high school stands in regards to other schools in the state.

Final Conclusions and Thoughts

After looking at the Prime Metrics, and comparing them to the State Averages, we can get a better picture of how well our schools are doing when compared to the 2600+ other schools in the state. By using the State Average as a baseline, it allows us to moderate the outliers at both the top and bottom of the list, to let us know much better just how we stack up in comparison to the rest of the state.

It appears that our Elementary School is doing a very good job at being consistently above average in most ways.

Our High School is good at getting our kids out of school at the end of their education, and pushing them to the next level of learning, but we don’t have enough information to really tell how well the intervening years are working, all we can see is the “final product” at the end.

The Middle School, however, is another story. It has had a rough and rocky time in the past decade, having troubles with both keeping student’s educational levels consistent and growing them over the years, as well as catching up low performers with their peers. Of most concern is the seeming downward trend of not being able to prepare our students for High School graduation and beyond, making the job of the High School that much harder to get our kids ready. However, it seems that things have improved in this area in recent years, so time will tell.

Out of all the schools, I think it would be in the District’s best interest to maintain the status quo for both the Elementary School (which has performed consistently well), and the High School (which we don’t have enough data for, so “stay the course”), and to focus any additional resources it may have on helping to pick up the Middle School’s “slack”, for the lack of a better word. After the Middle School has been “picked back up again”, then we can start talking about making a movement towards upwards mobility, and a push for academic excellence, for all of the schools in the District.

I don’t know about you, but I for one would like to see the Fall Creek School District become the BEST school district in the state. As it stands now, we’ve got a ways to go before we can attempt to get there. It’ll require a lot of work, focus, and some tough conversations, but if we want things to get better, those are the things that we’ll have to do.

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