Voucher school students scored below Unified peers on state standardized exam, The Journal Times, 3/29/12

posted Mar 29, 2012, 4:29 AM by Bill Duncan

RACINE COUNTY — Students who attended private schools on vouchers, instead of Racine Unified schools, on average performed more poorly than their district peers on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tuesday released a comparison of private school choice students and public school students on the WKCE. The test was given to grades three through eight and 10 last fall.

For Racine Unified, 60 of the 62 private school choice students in those grades were tested, DPI stated. They averaged 50.8 percent proficient or advanced on the WKCE math tests, while Unified students averaged 61.5 percent.

Those private school choice students also scored well below the state average math proficiency of 78.0 and the statewide average for economically disadvantaged students, 64.7 percent, DPI said.

In reading, the private school choice students from Unified averaged 55.7 percent proficient or advanced, compared with the district average of 69.2 percent.

The statewide average was 81.9 percent proficiency in reading and 70.5 percent for economically disadvantaged students.

This is the first year of the voucher program for Racine Unified School District.

About the results, Unified Superintendent Ann Laing responded, “Basically, the scores speak for themselves.”

“And I think when schools take public money, they have to understand there’s some public accountability,” Laing continued. “I think we all have to be held accountable at the same level, with the same tests.”

Told of the results, school vouchers champion state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said, “I would say that is exactly why we started school choice in Racine. What these test results prove is that Unified failed them.”

Those students now have a better chance at a good education, he said.

Asked how long it might be before results show that kind of improvement over public school students, Vos replied, “I think it will be five to 10 years before we can consistently say a child who goes to a choice school has a better chance for success.”

State tax dollars fund both the Milwaukee and Racine voucher programs which allow students who meet income guidelines to attend private schools. Laing noted the family household income limit to be in the program is $67,000, which she said is considerably greater than the city of Racine family median income.

The DPI said Unified’s new private school voucher program is receiving $1.5 million in state tax dollars while Unified is receiving $16.4 million less in state and categorical aid this school year, a 10.3 percent reduction.

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