Northwoods school nears 'exceeds expectations' after 13-point improvement on state report card in three yearsSubmitted: 11/13/2019

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RHINELANDER - New data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) shows one Northwoods school experienced greatly improved performance over the past three years. 

According to DPI 'report cards' released Monday, 87% of rated schools in Wisconsin met or exceeded expectations as did 96% of the state's 421 public school districts. Scores are calculated in four priority areas including student achievement, school growth, closing gaps between student groups and postsecondary readiness. 

At James Williams Middle School (JWMS) in Rhinelander, student achievement, school growth and postsecondary readiness are all on the rise. JWMS earned a 72.3 "meets expectations" score for the 2018-2019 school year. That's up nearly 13 points from just three years ago and just 0.7% shy of "exceeds expectations." Of all Northwood's schools, JWMS saw one of the greatest improvements over the past three years.

"To see that growth and know the things that we are doing here are closing the gaps is a very great thing," said JWMS principal Richard Gretizinger.

Gretzinger said more students at JWMS are taking advanced classes which have helped close English Language Arts (ELA) and Math achievement gaps. The school system's master schedule was also revised within the past three years. At JWMS Math and ELA class times grew from 45 minutes to 70 minutes. Student intervention time and teacher collaboration time were also added to the revised schedule.

"The processes that we have in place are effective and we just need to stay with the path," said Gretzinger

Other schools across the city of Rhinelander are also on a path toward improved achievement. 

As a whole, the Rhinelander School District earned a 68 "meets expectations" score for the 2018-2019 school year. That score is up more than six points in three years. 

Rachel Hoffman, Director of Teaching, Learning and Technology for the district said even with that success there's still a long way to go.

"Very excited about the growth that we've seen but we know it's just the tip of the iceberg," said Hoffman.

Across the district, Hoffman said math and reading intervention coaching has made education more equitable. Reading and math specialists have also helped the district align its curriculum with state standards. Hoffman added that understanding student's unique differences through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has also had a marked impact.

"We're looking at not having a one size fits all model, so we're looking at adjusting our instruction and the methods that we use," said Hoffman. "We're look at different areas for action, expression and representation for our students. 

Hoffman said the district's new model allows some students to present information they've learned in the way they want to. For example, instead of a book report a student could present a video essay. The district is also taking greater care to accommodate student comfort in the classroom through specialized seating options.

Story By: Stephen Goin

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