Glossary of Terms
The following is a list of select terms and their definitions as they apply to this DataTool. Please contact the Wisconsin Policy Forum for questions regarding any terms not explained in the text or defined in this glossary.
ACT: Since with the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsin has administered the ACT plus Writing to all 11th graders as part of its statewide mandated assessments. The test consists of English, math, reading, science, and an optional writing section. The maximum possible score on any individual section is 36, with the exception of the writing section, which has a maximum score of 12. The composite score is the weighted average of the four subject area scores (excluding writing), out of a possible 36. These scores appear in DPI’s ACT Statewide dataset and we now use the scores as one of the college readiness indicators in this DataTool. DPI also publishes the ACT Graduate dataset, which consists of all results from students expected to graduate from high school that year.
ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks: As part of ACT’s College and Career Readiness System, these standards were established as a more thorough measure of student achievement and an attempt to establish a link between how much curriculum a student comprehends and the score he or she receives. The benchmark scores are broken down by subject and are intended to predict whether students are prepared to succeed in relevant college courses. The ACT defines success as a 50% or higher chance of earning a B or higher in related courses. The following are the College Readiness Benchmark Scores by subject test: English (18), Mathematics (22), Reading (22), and Science (23).
Advanced Placement (AP) Tests: Students can take 37 exams in 16 fields. If a high school student receives a score of three, four, or five on an AP exam, he or she may be offered the opportunity to receive college credit or have college course prerequisites waived, depending on the higher education institution. K-12 school districts may or may not offer formal courses in preparation for these exams. Enrollment data is used to calculate the percentage of students taking the tests.
Attendance: Based on the state-required 175 school days, and with attendance taken twice daily, the attendance rate (expressed as a percentage) is computed by dividing the aggregate number of days students are in school by the aggregate number of possible student days in the school year. An attendance rate of 95% means that 5 out of every 100 students enrolled were not in school on a typical day.
Dropouts: The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction defines a dropout as a student who was enrolled in school at some point during the reported school year, was not enrolled at the beginning of the following school year, has not graduated from high school or completed a state or district-approved educational program, and does not meet any of the following exclusionary conditions: transfer to another public school district, private school, or state or district-approved educational program; temporary absence due to expulsion, suspension, or school-approved illness; or death. The dropout rate is the number of students who dropped out during the school year divided by the total number of students who were expected to complete the school year in that school or district. The latter number may be more or less than the enrollment due to student transfers in and out after the fall enrollment count date. “Total number of students expected to complete the school term” is the denominator used to calculate all dropout rates and is the sum of students who actually completed the school term plus dropouts.
Economically Disadvantaged: According to DPI, students considered “economically disadvantaged” are those who meet various income eligibility requirements. Most commonly, it is those who are eligible to receive Free or Reduced Price Lunch under the National School Lunch Program. To qualify for free meals, a student’s family income must be equal or less than 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines ($32,630 for a family of four as of 2018-19). To qualify for reduced-price meals, the income threshold is 185% ($46,435 for a family of four as of 2018-19).
English Learners (EL): Students defined as English Learners are those whose first language, or parents’ or guardians’ first language, is not English, and whose level of English proficiency requires specially designed instruction. As part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements, these students are required to partake in all state and federal required language and academic assessments, including the W-APT and ACCESS for EL. In addition to a preliminary evaluation in which the students’ academic history is assessed, students must complete a home language survey and receive a score of less than 6 on the W-APT assessment in order to be deemed an EL.
Enrollment: A head count of how many children are enrolled in school using enrollment as of the third Friday in September. Schools also report this number in January, but this is less widely used. Enrollment data typically are used for accountability or outcome purposes. In this DataTool, third Friday in September head count enrollments are used for all calculations involving enrollment.
Forward Exam: The Wisconsin Forward Exam is the online statewide assessment introduced in the 2015-16 school year. Students in grades 3-8 take the Forward Exam annually each spring for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Students in grades 4 and 8 have an additional section for science, while students in grades 4, 8, and 10 have an additional section for social studies.
High School Graduation Rates: High school graduation rates are defined as the number of graduates divided by an estimate of the total cohort group measured from the beginning of high school, expressed as a percentage. DPI provides data for four-, five-, six-, and seven-year graduation rates. This DataTool includes only the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as measured by DPI.
Membership: An alternative method used to count students. Membership is calculated as the average of the full-time equivalency (FTE) of resident pupils on the third Friday in September and the second Friday in January, plus the FTE for summer school, group/foster home, part-time resident and non-resident attendance pupils, statewide choice and Racine pupils, and statewide special needs scholarship program pupils. The count of member is typically utilized for fiscal applications such as state aid payments and comparative cost calculations. In this report, we use membership when calculating district finance measures. Note: The membership number and enrollment number for a district do not match due to the differences in how they are calculated.
Revenue per-pupil: This DataTool uses actual revenue and spending figures (as opposed to budgeted amounts), which means the data are from the most recently completed school year instead of the current year. Revenue data include all revenues associated with the instructional funds. We present those on a per-pupil basis. Instructional revenue in the DataTool is divided into three categories (we also include a total):
Expenses per-pupil: This DataTool uses actual revenue and spending figures (as opposed to budgeted amounts), which means the data are from the most recently completed school year instead of the current year. Expenditure data include all expenditures associated with the instructional funds. We present these on a per-pupil basis. We single out instructional spending because other forms of spending — like capital spending and debt service — can vary dramatically from year to year (depending on whether a district is building or renovating schools). Instructional spending in the DataTool is divided into seven categories (we also include a total):
Open Enrollment: A state program that allows students the opportunity to attend public schools outside their resident district. Open enrollment limits vary by school district, and the number of seats available are announced by districts each January. Attracting students (and the state funding that follows them) through open enrollment can be a way for districts to maintain programs, services, and facilities.
Teacher: For the purposes of this DataTool, teachers are defined as those who are counted under code 53 in DPI’s staffing data file.