Less discussed in Wisconsin is the tremendous impact that economic status has on student achievement. A school with a population of 100% students who are economically disadvantaged would be expected to have proficiency rates more than 40% lower than a school with wealthier students. Indeed, this economics achievement gap is far larger in terms of proficiency effects than the racial achievement gap, and has important implications for the rural areas of the state, where the percentage of low-income families is higher than most suburban and some rural areas.
While the initial data release by DPI did not include sufficient data for apples-to-apples comparisons among private schools in the choice program, the data was comprehensive enough for charter schools. Particularly in Milwaukee, these schools continue to outperform their peer schools. For this preliminary analysis, we pulled out independent and non-instrumentality charters from MPS, while leaving instrumentality charters—or charters in name-only—as part of the district’s performance. In both mathematics and English/language arts, charter schools continue to outperform their other public school peers.
In English/Language Arts, “free” charters had approximately 9% higher proficiency than traditional public schools. In mathematics, these schools had 6.9% higher proficiency. This is consistent with our past analyses which have found that independence from MPS is a key component of better student outcomes, whether through the chartering or the school choice program.
The Wisconsin DPI has aborted our one attempt at teacher content knowledge requirements: “Foundations of Reading” for elementary teachers. Massachusetts’ MTEL substantially raised the teacher content knowledge bar, leading to their top public school rank.