Bill to make schools more accountable for failing grades

Author: Schools would be able to get federal funding among other resources

Wisconsin lawmakers have made school accountability priority number one this year.

Assembly Republicans introduced the issue in their first bill of the 2015 session.

The bill will judge schools based on report cards similar to what the districts have been getting over the last two years.

Starting with the 2017-2018 school year, districts with a “D” or “F” grade would have to create a four year plan to improve.

The bill’s author says the schools would be able to get federal funding among other resources to help during those four years. If the schools don’t improve the state superintendent could force the failing schools to become charter schools.

“It’s not about giving them more computers and things like that, it’s about getting coaches for the teachers, helping the school to figure out ways to get the parents more engaged in the children’s academics, and getting help for the administration in terms of how to run school more effectively,” said Fond Du Lac Republican Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, author of the proposed bill.

“I don’t think the answer to a failing public school is to turn it into a private school,” said Jill Billings.

The West Salem School superintendent is skeptical of parts of the current bill. He sees this as a way to justify expanding the school voucher system.

He would prefer lawmakers wait on any major changes and instead let schools examine the current district report cards and find ways to improve. That’s something the West Salem superintendent says his district was able to do last year, going from meeting expectations to exceeding them.

“It’s caused us to sort of self-reflect. We had some areas that we really worked to improve, so the second year of that we had much higher rankings than we had the first year because we figured out how we were going to be measured and what we needed to attack with that,” said West Salem Schools Superintendent Troy Gunderson.

Lawmakers do not expect this bill to pass as is.

At least one other school accountability bill has also been introduced.