Big changes are under way for education in Wisconsin. Educators are implementing the more rigorous Common Core State Standards for mathematics and English language arts. And, we’ve set higher standards for what it means for students to be proficient on statewide tests to more accurately reflect the demands of colleges, technical schools and the workplace.
Agenda 2017, a comprehensive package of education reform, also will include new assessments, teacher evaluations and better data systems. These are necessary changes for a worthy purpose: To elevate the achievement of our students and their schools. Our goals for the next five years are to increase graduation rates; increase students’ readiness for college and careers; close graduation and career readiness gaps; increase the percentages of students who are proficient in third-grade reading and eighth-grade mathematics, both barometers for future success; and improve school finance through Fair Funding for Our Future. Agenda 2017 sets aggressive but achievable goals to improve student learning.
We all want our children to do well in school. Achievement starts with attendance. Truancy is an obvious problem of unexcused absence. But, even schools that have high average daily attendance rates may have several students with high rates of excused absences. Statewide attendance data shows that more than 16,000 students in kindergarten through third grade missed 20 or more days last school year. Missing a month of school is a dangerous trend. By middle school, high absenteeism is a predictor of dropping out. Whether it is health issues, transportation problems or other factors, schools, parents and communities must work together to make sure our kids are in school so they can learn. The habits of school attendance start in kindergarten and establish a pattern for success in school and in life.
Ramping up expectations for our kids is a partnership. Our teachers, administrators and school staff members can’t do it alone. Educators need support from civic leaders and elected officials, businesses and industry, and most of all parents and families.