It has been a busy year for public schools in Wisconsin, but Whitefish Bay has been able to manage the changes of Act 10 while maintaining strong student performance.
On Wednesday night, Whitefish Bay Superintendent Mary Gavigan recapped the last year's events in a State of the District presentation that touched on student achievement, the district's vision and how Whitefish Bay is responding to changes in education legislation and policy.
Among the district's successes are last year's ACT scores, which were second-highest among public schools in the state. The previous year, Whitefish Bay's scores were the highest among state public schools and second-highest in the history of state public schools.
Whitefish Bay students averaged an AP exam score of 4.01 out of 5.0 over the last seven years. About 98 percent of the students that take AP classes in Whitefish Bay go on to complete the exam.
"These results indicate not just the successes of our high school, and not just the successes of our students as they prepare to leave high school to their next endeavor, but are truly the hallmark of an excellent K-12 education that is occurring throughout the grades," Gavigan said.
In the younger grade levels, Whitefish Bay students in third grade, fifth grade and seventh grade performed an average of two years above their grade level in reading, math and language arts on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
Gavigan also pointed to three fiscal challenges the district navigated in the past year:
- completing its school renovation project ahead of schedule and $2.6 million under budget;
- saving $2 million per year through changes to post-retirement benefits; and
- a settlement its 2008 lawsuit against Stifel Nicolaus and the Royal Bank of Canada.
While enrollment is down statewide, Whitefish Bay's enrollment has increased for the past 11 years. The district saw 52 new students this year. Enrollment growth comes from children who leave private or parochial schools and families moving into the village.
"We've been able to support the enrollment growth in all of our schools, and in our foreseeable future, will continue to do so," Gavigan said.
As new legislation passes on the state and national levels, Gavigan said there will be an increasing focus on standards of instruction and school and educator effectiveness. Some of those standards are addressed through the district's updated and refreshed focus plan.
"We are positioning ourselves for the changes in assessment, and we are taking the steps to develop a deeper, data-driven culture in our schools and within our classrooms, " Gavigan said.