Brown Deer has room for improvement

Officials try to boost lagging test scores

June 23, 2010

Brown Deer — If you're a student in Brown Deer, you've just started your summer vacation - and are looking forward to a couple of months of rest and relaxation.

But there won't be a lot of R&R for district administrators this summer as they continue to work on ways to improve student achievement test scores that lag significantly behind the rest of the North Shore.

In the Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Mequon-Thiensville and Nicolet districts, more than 90 percent of the students scored at the proficient or advanced levels in the latest state standardized tests for reading and math.

But in Brown Deer, just 75 percent of the students were at that level in the 2009 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations math tests - 1.4 percentage points below the state average.

In reading, the percentage of students who scored at the proficient or advanced levels was 5 points below the state average. Not only is that the lowest mark in the North Shore, it's second lowest among all districts in suburban Milwaukee County.

And earlier this month, the state Department of Public said Brown Deer Middle School was one of six suburban schools that failed to meet academic goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act in the 2009-10 school year.

According to DPI, the school failed to meet the state's definition of adequate yearly progress in one subset - students with disabilities - in the area of reading. However, the school did meet the goals in all other subjects and student groups.

A busy summer ahead

Brown Deer school officials say they are well aware that they have their work cut out for them as they work to improve the district's test scores. Several initiatives are under way this summer.

"For (administrators), the school year isn't over," said Terry Brecklin, the district's director of instruction. "We are continuing to look at student achievement. It's an ongoing discussion."

More than 200 students in kindergarten through eighth grade are enrolled in a six-week summer school program that kicked off Monday. Curriculum is tailored toward students who might be struggling in reading and math.

Administrators also will embark on several data retreats, an exercise Brecklin said is aimed at meeting the needs of all student groups with more precision. Those groups include students with special education needs, and those who are economically disadvantaged or might have a specific racial and ethnic background.

Far from satisfied

District Administrator Deb Kerr acknowledged administrators are not content with the scores, and are moving forward with goals and sights set on higher standards.

In the past two years, Brecklin, Kerr and other administrators have ramped up their focus on student achievement.

"The process is continuous," Brecklin said. "Just as students never stop learning, our work with data never stops. We collect data, we analyze it, we make decisions and then act. Then we collect data to see if our actions made a difference."

Brecklin said part of the challenge of addressing student achievement has been student mobility. She said some students entering the district after kindergarten are below grade level in such areas as reading.

"We always want to bring students up to grade level," Brecklin said. "But it's a continuous challenge. At the same time, some of our new students are high achieving, and we want to challenge them, like we do with any other student who is gifted and talented."

Residents want some answers

But as far as some residents are concerned, the district isn't moving fast enough to bring the scores up to par.

"When I bought a house in Brown Deer, I did so because of the schools and the good reputation they had," said resident and former School Board member Mike Christopulos. "Many people, including the board, need to be held accountable for these scores. Why are they so poor? Taxpayers are sick of these scores."

Ron Kundinger, president of the Brown Deer affiliate for watchdog group Citizens for Responsible Government, said there should be a corelation between the tests scores and the district's budget.

"No more until you do more," Kundinger said at a recent School Board meeting, referring to future property tax levy increases.

But other residents have backed the board and administrators, and remain supportive of ongoing efforts to address student achievement.

"Statistics only tell you so much," said resident Gary Stresman, a Nicolet High School science teacher whose wife, Kathy, is on the Brown Deer School Board. "There are a lot of positive things going on in this district."

Resident Ellen Schimenz said she feels the negativity surrounding WKCE scores and other issues is hurting the district.

"Let's come together and work together," Schimenz said. "We have students in this district with needs that need to be met."

North Shore WKCE scores

Percentage of students who scored at proficient or advanced levels on Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations



  2009 2008 2009 2008 2009 2008 2009 2008 2009 2008
Brown Deer - fourth grade 73.3 73.2 72.3 69.1 76.2 84.5 74.3 68.0 90.1 89.7
Brown Deer - eighth grade 80.6 83.1 69.8 55.9 82.9 78.7 79.1 69.9 82.2 74.3
Brown Deer - 10th grade 70.4 69.1 63.2 69.8 63.2 73.8 70.4 75.2 73.7 78.5
Fox Point-Bayside - fourth grade 90.8 91.3 90.8 93.5 89.8 91.3 91.8 91.3 94.9 94.6
Fox Point-Bayside - eighth grade 95.9 93.3 87.7 80.9 91.8 92.1 93.2 87.6 90.4 88.8
Glendale-River Hills - fourth grade 88.4 90.5 86.0 77.4 77.9 82.1 83.7 83.3 91.9 95.2
Glendale-River Hills - eighth grade 84.8 82.8 72.7 65.6 74.7 80.6 79.8 72.0 79.8 76.3
Maple Dale-Indian Hill - fourth grade 93.6 84.4 100.0 93.8 93.6 90.6 93.6 96.9 100.0 96.9
Maple Dale-Indian - eighth grade 90.6 98.2 77.4 89.1 88.7 96.4 90.6 90.9 86.8 94.5
Mequon-Thiensville - fourth grade 92.7 93.8 90.9 90.9 96.3 95.9 91.8 91.7 98.2 97.9
Mequon-Thiensville - eighth grade 95.7 95.2 86.3 83.5 93.4 93.0 93.0 89.7 95.3 93.8
Mequon-Thiensville - 10th grade 91.3 87.8 87.2 84.8 86.9 88.1 85.3 82.9 86.3 85.1
Nicolet - 10th grade 86.2 83.7 85.1 81.5 83.3 75.0 82.5 76.8 86.5 83.7
Shorewood - fourth grade 91.4 91.3 90.5 89.8 91.4 95.3 87.1 87.4 97.4 97.6
Shorewood - eighth grade 93.4 90.1 80.1 77.8 91.4 90.1 93.4 87.7 92.1 90.1
Shorewood - 10th grade 91.5 91.9 84.6 88.6 82.3 89.9 85.4 89.9 90.0 94.6
Whitefish Bay - fourth grade 92.1 92.0 93.1 92.0 94.1 94.8 92.6 92.0 96.1 95.4
Whitefish Bay - eighth grade 89.9 94.2 81.2 83.7 90.3 94.2 89.4 88.5 89.4 92.3
Whitefish Bay - 10th grade 92.2 94.7 92.7 89.9 87.6 88.9 88.6 88.4 90.7 90.8

Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

How districts stack up

Percentage of students at all grade levels who scored proficient or advanced in WKCE academic tests.

District Math Reading
Mequon-Thiensville 93.2 94.2
Fox Point-Bayside 91.8 94.1
Whitefish Bay 91.9 92.9
Shorewood 90.1 92.7
Maple Dale-Indian Hill  90.4 91.5
Nicolet 83.3 86.2
Glendale-River Hills 75.1 84.3
Brown Deer 75.0 75.7
Statewide 76.4 80.7

Combined figures for grades 3,4,5,6,7,8 and, where applicable, 10.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

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