Sandhill gets state recognition

By: 
Derek Spellman

Sandhill Elementary School has been awarded a Wisconsin Title I High Progress School Award from the state, the state Department of Public Instruction said late last week.

The award recognizes schools that have either met or exceeded expectations on the state’s school report card system, shown student growth in math and reading levels, closed or reduced achievement gaps and met criteria for absenteeism, dropout rates and student participation in standardized testing. Schools also must receive Title I aid because they have a significant number of students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, DPI said in a news release.

“They (the awards) don’t happen because of just a few people,” Sandhill principal Cheryl Price told the Hub earlier this week, praising staff, students and parents for the award. “It is everybody really working together to support students and support student achievement.”

Price said she thought more than 30 percent of Sandhill students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Under Wisconsin’s new report card system, each school receives an overall “accountability rating” on a 0 to 100 scale. That rating is derived from the school’s performance in a number of subcategories, which include student scores on standardized tests, whether students have shown improvement in math and reading on those tests, and student graduation and attendance rates.

Each school then falls into one of five accountability categories based on their overall score: significantly exceeds expectations (overall score of 83 to 100); exceeds expectations (73 to 82.9); meets expectations (63 to 72.9); meets few expectations (53 to 62.9); and fails to meet expectations (52.9 or lower).

The first report cards were issued for Wisconsin public schools in October 2012.

Sandhill received an overall score of 80 on its first report card, the highest of all five Stoughton schools. It notched a score of 74.2 for student performance in math and reading on standardized tests but an 80.8 when it came to student improvement in those two areas. Sandhill also got an 87.6 rating when it came to assessing areas such as student attendance.

Sandhill was not scored on its achievement gap area this first report card because it housed grades fifth and sixth up until 2009, when the district closed Yahara Elementary School and River Bluff Middle School absorbed Sandhill’s then sixth-grade level, making Sandhill Stoughton’s third elementary school, superintendent Tim Onsager previously said.

Price said strategies that the district has implemented in recent years to help students include being more data-driven and supporting professional development for teachers, notably in the area of promoting literacy.

Sandhill was one of 65 schools in Wisconsin to receive a Title I award, which recognize schools that either show high achievement, high progress, or both. Nine schools earned both, while another 11 were “High-Achieving” schools that significantly exceeded expectations and met the other award criteria.

As part of Wisconsin’s federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver request, the Department of Public Instruction is required to identify Title I schools that are among the highest achieving in the state and those that have the most significant improvement in student achievement from one year to the next, DPI said in its news release.