School educational performance in the Fox Cities remains strong overall on graduation rates and standardized testing in comparison to state averages. Proficiency rates in math, reading, and science testing across all grades remain above the state average, although declines in science scores occurred between 2015 and 2016 across all regions with the introduction of the Forward exam(1) and have not returned to previous levels as of 2019 (62.5% for Calumet County). In 2019, math and reading proficiency ranged between 42.3% and 50.5% in each county in the Fox Cities region.
While the averaged reading proficiency scores for 3rd-8th graders in the Fox Cities are above the state average, and have remained stable since the start of Forward exam testing in 2016, Grade 3-specific reading proficiency scores have declined significantly in the Fox Cities region and Wisconsin, averaging 46% in 2016, dropping to 39% in 2019, with the tri-county area having slightly lower reading proficiency levels than the state. Decreases are true for students who are economically disadvantaged (32%, falling to 26%), as well as students who are not economically disadvantaged (56%, falling to 48%). These decreases are observed across all race/ethnic groups.
Four-year high school graduation rates increased between 2013 and 2019 across all regions. Calumet, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties all ranked above the state average in 2019, and Wisconsin is ranked eleventh best in statewide(2) graduation rates across the United States. Whereas 2016 was a low-point for four-year graduation rates for all race/ethnic groups, each has improved as of 2019, with the American Indian/Alaska Native students having the greatest increase, from 71% to 92% between 2016 and 2019.(3) High school dropout rates were relatively flat between 2013 and 2019 in Calumet, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties, as well as in Wisconsin, with the Fox Cities region typically having lower rates than the state. The 2010-2014 idle teen rate for the Fox Cities ranges from 0.7% in Calumet to 2.5% in Outagamie, much lower than the United States’ average of 5.2%.
Student Attendance and Family Hardship
Grade 5 attendance has been identified as a leading indicator of overall academic success, as this is an age when students can become less engaged, leading to later challenges. Habitual truants can fall behind in their schoolwork and are at a greater risk of dropping out of school. Grade 5 attendance rates for the Fox Cities region are currently above the state average and have remained between 95-97.5% since 2011. While Calumet saw a drop in attendance rates in 2017, falling 2.3 percentage points, they recovered and currently have the area’s highest grade 5 attendance rates.
Truancy is related to numerous causes, but an important consideration may be economic hardship, sometimes leading to homelessness and housing instability then contributing to absenteeism. The rates of homeless students have changed little from 2014-2018 across all counties and the state, with Calumet having the lowest rates and Winnebago having the highest. Wisconsin’s rate of homeless students is almost double that of Outagamie County. Truancy rates for all Fox Cities counties are consistently lower than the Wisconsin average (10.6% in 2017), with Calumet and Outagamie counties consistently below 3.5%, but Winnebago increasing above 7% in 2017.
The percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) has remained relatively unchanged across the Fox Cities region and Wisconsin from 2014-2019, with Calumet and Outagamie counties being more than 10% lower than Winnebago County and Wisconsin (29% and 39%, respectively). The percentage of students eligible for FRPL was also higher for minority groups when compared to White students from 2013 to 2017. The percentage of students eligible for free lunches has been relatively stable since 2014. However, Winnebago County and Wisconsin as a whole have significantly more eligible students (about 40%) than Outagamie and Calumet counties (about 29%).
Investment in Education
The educational cost per student across the Fox Cities counties has risen from 2012 to 2014, with all counties spending below the state average. Calumet and Outagamie spending in 2013 was higher than the United States average(4), with Winnebago slightly lower.
(1) Wisconsin Forward Exam https://dpi.wi.gov/assessment/forward
(2) See 2019 state rankings in the “High School Graduation in 2019” tab in the following link: http://www.americashealthrankings.org/all/Graduation
(3) The large fluctuations for American Indian/Alaska Native students may be a factor of small sample size.