School data: School Performance Reports

The School Performance Report is the annual “report card” that is required under Wisconsin law (Wi.Stat.115.38) to be compiled and published for each public school and public school district. DPI’s recent announcement (noted here) that selected School Performance Report information will now be available online at the DPI web site is a step in the right direction, but this important tool for school accountability and information for parents and the public has yet to reach its full potential, due to inconsistent compliance with the requirements of the reporting law.
The School Performance Report has been required since 1991. The items that are to be included in each report are (emphases added):

(a) Indicators of academic achievement, including the performance of pupils on the tests administered under s. 121.02 (1) (r) and the performance of pupils, by subject area, on the statewide assessment examinations administered under s. 118.30.
(b) 1. Other indicators of school and school district performance, including dropout, attendance, retention in grade and graduation rates; percentage of habitual truants, as defined in s. 118.16 (1) (a); percentage of pupils participating in extracurricular and community activities and advanced placement courses; percentage of graduates enrolled in postsecondary educational programs; and percentage of graduates entering the workforce.
2. The numbers of suspensions and expulsions; the reasons for which pupils are suspended or expelled, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; the length of time for which pupils are expelled, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; whether pupils return to school after their expulsion; the educational programs and services, if any, provided to pupils during their expulsions, reported according to categories specified by the state superintendent; the schools attended by pupils who are suspended or expelled; and the grade, sex and ethnicity of pupils who are suspended or expelled and whether the pupils are children with disabilities, as defined in s. 115.76 (5).
(c) Staffing and financial data information, as determined by the state superintendent, not to exceed 10 items. The state superintendent may not request a school board to provide information solely for the purpose of including the information in the report under this paragraph.
(d) The number and percentage of resident pupils attending a course in a nonresident school district under s. 118.52, the number of nonresident pupils attending a course in the school district under s. 118.52, and the courses taken by those pupils.
(e) The method of reading instruction used in the school district and the textbook series used to teach reading in the school district.

It should be noted (and is acknowledged by DPI) that the School Performance Report information on the DPI site does not cover all of these items.
In 2005, the statute was amended to require that parents be alerted to the existence and availability of the report and given the opportunity to request a copy, and to require that each school district with a web site post the report on its web site (amended language italicized below):

Annually by January 1, each school board shall notify the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district of the right to request a school and school district performance report under this subsection. Annually by May [amended from January] 1, each school board shall, upon request, distribute to the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district, including pupils enrolled in charter schools located in the school district, or give to each pupil to bring home to his or her parent or guardian, a school and school district performance report that includes the information specified by the state superintendent under sub. (1). The report shall also include a comparison of the school district’s performance under sub. (1) (a) and (b) with the performance of other school districts in the same athletic conference under sub. (1) (a) and (b). If the school district maintains an Internet site, the report shall be made available to the public at that site.

This information, if fully compiled and made available as intended by the statute, could be a valuable resource to parents and the public (answering, perhaps, some of the questions in this discussion). There may be parents who are unaware that this “report card” exists, and would benefit from receiving the notice that the statute requires. For parents without access to the Internet, the right to request a hard copy of the report may be their only access to this information.
Districts who do not post their School Performance Reports on their web sites may do well to follow the example of the Kenosha School District, which does a good job of highlighting its School Performance Reports (including drop-down menus by school) on the home page of its web site.