After ten years of exhaustive diagnostics, poking and prodding, the patient — Racine Unified School District — still is quite sick.
The Public Policy Forum’s just released 10th annual comparative analysis of RUSD (paid for by Education Racine, the not-for-profit foundation of RAMAC) — comparing the district to nine peer* districts with similar enrollments — is measured in many places, objectively reporting such things as student achievement, graduation rates, truancy and more.
But the bottom line, stated with ultimate tact — “Our data do not fit with the customer satisfaction objective.” — gives clear warning of what’s to come.
The report’s major findings, released at a Wingspread briefing tonight, conclude:
Diversity: The minority population in RUSD, the state’s fourth largest district with 21,696 students, continues to grow. Racine’s classrooms now are 48.1% minority, up from 36.9% ten years ago, thanks to an influx of Asian and Hispanic students. African-American enrollment has increased “modestly” in recent years and white enrollment has “declined somewhat.”
White students now make up 51.9% of RUSD’s enrollment; African-Americans 26.7% and Hispanics 19.6%. Statewide, 22.1% of students are minority.
Operational Efficiency: State aid to RUSD has increased 40.2% in 10 years, yet we’re now 8th out of 10. (State aid to Kenosha has risen 70.8% in the same period.) Property tax revenue is up 21.4%; Kenosha’s has gone up 41.7%. RUSD falls to 9th in the growth of federal aid: up 87.5% in 10 years, while Kenosha has gone up 146.9% and Appleton 346.9%.
The district ranked 8th out of 10 in property taxes collected per pupil. Racine was third in instructional spending per pupil, sixth in operational spending. RUSD spent $10,169 per pupil, just $119 below the state average, but well below Madison’s $12,163.
These findings are part of the Public Policy Forum’s 10th annual report on how Racine Unified stacks up among Wisconsin’s 10 largest districts – excluding Milwaukee – in student achievement, engagement and finances.
“I think you have here the largest, most comprehensive study of any district in the state of Wisconsin, and possibly the country,” Jeff Browne, president of the Milwaukee think tank, said to a gathering of advocates, school officials and business leaders Wednesday.
Racine Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district, faces serious challenges, the report shows.
Its students ranked near the bottom at all grade levels when compared with peer districts on state reading and math tests in the 2006-’07 school year. This is in keeping with recent years’ rankings, though there is some improvement at the elementary level.