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Proposal to track student performance at all schools introduced

MADISON, Wis. (WSAU-WRN) - Key Republican state lawmakers are detailing a plan to track student performance at all Wisconsin schools receiving taxpayer dollars.

The legislation from state Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Representative Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) would create new standards for measuring performance at public and charter schools, along with private schools that accept students using taxpayer-funded vouchers. Olsen chairs the Senate Education Committee, while Kestell chairs the Assembly Education Committee.

Under the bill, schools would be measured on a number of factors that are similar to an existing report card system used for public schools. Schools would be rated on a scale of zero to 100 in five categories, ranging from “fails to meet expectations” to “significantly exceeds expectations.”While students in all schools would be measured for achievement in reading and math, private school voucher students would also be measured using a value-added methodology. Olsen said that would help to account for students who have moved to private schools after they may have been struggling in public schools.

Olsen says the goal of the legislation is not to make it easier to shut any schools down, but to ensure they are achieving the right outcomes for students. Schools that fail to meet expectations repeatedly over a three year period would face consequences, such as an intervention plan. If they fail to improve after that, they could be forced to close, lose their charter, or be excluded from the voucher program in the future.

The proposal received a mixed reception from fellow Republicans and school choice advocates. In a statement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the GOP supports accountability for publicly-funded schools. However, Vos also hinted that changes might be needed to get to a “final product that we all support.”

Meanwhile, School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender also expressed support for some of the ideas outlined, although he also raised concerns about how the proposal leaves too much control in the hands of the Department of Public Instruction. He says they plan to push for changes to the proposal.

Hearings on the bill could come as early as this fall.