La Follette High, Cherokee Heights Middle, Badger Rock Middle and Sandburg Elementary schools in Madison have all been given failing grades by the Department of Public Instruction, in report cards handed out Thursday.
Five school districts and 99 schools in Wisconsin also face failing grades. They include two academies in Janesville and a virtual academy based in McFarland.
The ratings are based on four areas of student achievement in English, math, student growth, closing achievement gaps and graduation readiness. Superintendent Jen Cheatham says these results don't accurately show the achievement of their schools, due to a large amount of students who opted out of the test.
"We actually had 24 schools get point deduction largely driven from parents making the choice to opt out of taking the test. When you remove those five- and 10-point deductions from the 24 schools that received them, the district school-by-school results look much different," Cheatham said.
Sandburg Elementary parent Shawn Schwolger said he is not concerned with the results. Schwolger's son has special needs. He said since enrolling in the school, his son has come a long way.
"He was really below average and they have helped him out tremendously. He speaks to people, he's reading good so he has done very well," he said.
Schwolger has two other kids who also went to Sandburg, which is the reason why his family likes the area.
"The teachers are just awesome. They are there to help and they just love the kids," he said.
The state Department of Public Instruction did not issue report cards last year because the Legislature was still overhauling the system to define what is reported and how. The changes make the report a snapshot and not an equal comparison to report cards issued in prior years, according to DPI information.
One new change takes into account a school's poverty rate. Schools with high poverty rates now rank higher than in previous years if they show academic growth among low-income students.
Eighty-two percent of schools and 91 percent of districts scored three or more stars, meaning they met or exceeded expectations. The five districts that failed to meet expectations, which is the lowest score, were Racine, Bayfield, Cambria-Friesland, Cassville and Menominee Indian.
Cheatham said La Follette, Cherokee and Sandburg would not have gotten a failing grade without the deductions for students opting out of the test.
Schools have to be in the lowest category for two consecutive years before they face any sanctions.