Below are excerpts from the annual State of the School address delivered by Dr. Dave Poeschl, district administrator for Waupaca schools.
In last year’s remarks I spoke of the Department of Public Instruction’s intent to phase out the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) over the next two years in favor of tests providing more opportunities to benchmark student progress. Unfortunately, the target date is now four to five years out.
While phasing out the WSAS continues to be good news for those who long ago recognized the deficiencies of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, we must not only tolerate, but remain vigilant in our efforts to improve student performance on WKCE’s during this longer transition period. We should be proud of the fact our district met the challenges of the WKCE while it was in place. We will continue to meet that challenge until a new test is implemented.
It is important to recognize this delay is largely related to Wisconsin’s commitment to adopt Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics.
As State Superintendent Tony Evers stated, “These standards are aligned with college and career expectations, will ensure academic consistency throughout the state and across other states that adopt them, and have been benchmarked against international standards from high-performing countries.”
In a related matter, I am pleased to see Wisconsin has joined the Colorado Growth Collaborative in an effort to combine resources and that consortium has been awarded Federal Race to the Top funds to develop appropriate resources for measuring and tracking student progress on the Common Core Standards. This means the funds to develop valid and reliable tests will not have to come from the State budget.
Advanced technology continues to be the hope for increasing teaching and learning capacity. The School District of Waupaca supports this premise with capital expenditures, software, and highly trained and dedicated support personnel. In addition to the now routine use of technology for teaching, learning and communication, the District and State will be working together to make data more useful and schools more accountable.
Wisconsin’s Longitudinal Data System, or LDS Warehouse, will bring the following data into one place:
? ISES (Individual Student Enrollment System Discipline).
?Course Completion student data.
?Student Enrollment counts.
?ISES year end.
This will be of tremendous benefit to those who know how to use data to improve instruction. It will be our responsibility to continue to learn to do so for all students. It is not too difficult to understand the technical expertise needed to manage this data at the local level, but I am confident the District has excellent people in place do so. Our record to date justifies that level of confidence.
One other instruction-related topic I need to mention is the Middle School’s efforts to provide research-based gender-specific classes this year. It will be interesting to watch this program develop and then determine if there is enough evidence to show the District should increase our offerings of gender-specific programs. Thanks to the Middle School staff for doing the research and taking a risk with this program.
Over the years I have used this time to discuss the challenges we face as a District in the area of finance. The Board of Education will be hearing more and more about our financial situation as we move closer to finalizing the 2010-2011 budget. While ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds and Federal Job funds have stimulated our ability to offer extras, the use of these funds is precarious at best because they are one-time revenues that will end. As a result, the District must understand the programs and equipment funded with these monies will also stop. The funds provide luxuries that are not sustainable.
Last year I reported the School District of Waupaca would receive $922,000 less in State Aid than received the prior year. I now report even worse news – that the District will received $865,000 less this year than last year. That is $1.787 million less State Aid over a two-year period.
At the same time, the Board of Education understands the local economy and raised property taxes only $298,000 last year. To balance this discrepancy, the District has adjusted expenditures to match the shrinking student enrollments and found ways to provide quality instruction at a lesser cost.
However, this pace of lowering revenues cannot be maintained over time. Wisconsin needs to develop a better funding formula for schools. There is no evidence the School District of Waupaca spends too much on a per pupil basis. There is plenty evidence the taxpayers of this community and others are finding it more and more difficult to fill the gap created at the State level.
I made the comment at the 2009-10 Budget Hearing that the District budget was prepared with the hope school district employees would understand the conditions of the local economy. I am pleased and proud to report all employee groups but one are settled through the 2010-2011 school year at numbers that reflect their compassion for taxpayers and understanding of the local economy. The Board and I thank you for that.
It is no surprise challenges continue to dominate our agenda, but we will continue to face our challenges with optimism. The School District of Waupaca is a wonderful place to work, play, attend school, and live. As we continue to educate every child who walks through our doors, I am convinced our staff will make a positive difference in the lives of the more than 2,400 students who entered our schools this fall.