Wisconsin High Performance School Deserts

Jessica Holmberg & Will Flanders:

Educational quality varies extensively across the state of Wisconsin. While some students have ready access to high-performing public, private, and charter schools, many areas of the state are high-performing school deserts—where families have few high-performing school options to help push their child forward. In this study, WILL utilizes statistical analysis and our new school mapping tool to locate the areas of Wisconsin where these deserts exist. We identify areas with no high-performing schools by looking at WILL’s performance rankings, which place schools on a level playing field with respect to demographics. Using this metric, we find that Wisconsin still has a long way to go in ensuring that all its children have access to a rigorous education.

Wisconsin has 134 ZIP codes with up to 40,112 school-age children with no high-performing school options within 10 miles. 134 ZIP codes across 49 counties have no high-performing school options—public, charter, or private—within 10 miles. High performing school deserts represent regions of the state lacking educational equity and opportunity.

High-performing school deserts are most common in rural areas. While urban schools are often the focus of education policy makers, this report sheds light on the many rural regions of Wisconsin without high-performing school options. Shawano County (11) and Langlade County (7) lead the way with the most ZIP codes without easy access to high-performing schools. Another eight Wisconsin counties have four or more ZIP codes without high-performing school options.

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