Kettle Moraine stands out with high achievement, global push

Alan Borsuk:

That said, I’d call the Kettle Moraine School District the real thing, for three reasons.

First, the 4,400-student district in western Waukesha County has a strong commitment to get the broadest perspective on how its students are doing. Talking about student performance, Superintendent Patricia Deklotz said, “Our results are generally high, but compared to whom?”

How about: Compared to the highest-performing education systems on the planet?

Kettle Moraine has been at the forefront of a still-small movement in Wisconsin and nationwide to compare student performance at a school level against the world. The way to do that is through use of the OECD Test for Schools, a version of the international test that underlies almost everything you’ve seen about how American kids are doing compared to kids in Finland, Singapore and so on.

For the past two years — and, very likely, again in the coming school year — a representative sample of students at Kettle Moraine High School took the OECD test. Last year, a sample of students at KM Perform, a charter school within the district, also took the test.

Overall, the results for the main high school were OK in the first year — not great in reading, better in math and science. School leaders thought one reason scores weren’t higher was simply that students didn’t try their hardest. Results aren’t reported for individual students and carry no consequences for them.

In the second year, participating students got a sales job on why they should give the test their best effort — they got T-shirts, water bottles and pep talks about being the team from Kettle Moraine competing with the world. For the main high school, math and science scores stayed about the same and reading scores jumped significantly. For KM Perform, which is smaller and has an arts emphasis, results were even better.

Overall, the Kettle Moraine students did much better than the United States. If Kettle Moraine was a country, it would be among the top performers in the world.

Meanwhile, nothing of the sort has occured in Madison, where disastrous reading results have long been tolerated.