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DPI Candidate Holtz: Schools Are ‘Artificially Inflating’ Graduation Rates

Department Of Public Instruction Says It Has No Evidence To Support Claim

Scott Bauer/AP Photo

State superintendent candidate Lowell Holtz is suggesting Wisconsin schools are “artificially inflating” their graduation rates, but the state Department of Public Instruction says it doesn’t have any evidence supporting such a claim.

Holtz was asked Wednesday on the Joy Cardin Show what he thought about incumbent superintendent Tony Evers’ claim that student achievement figures are up.

Holtz said that wasn’t the case, going on to say schools can artificially inflate graduation rates by teachers not failing students who may meet the criteria to be held back.

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“You asked how many teachers are allowed to actually, if a child doesn’t show up for 45 days, fail them in their classrooms. And the answer in the mass majority is they’re not,” Holtz said.

When asked for further explanation, Holtz said in a statement that teachers have told him about their inability to hold back students who are, for example, truants. Holtz said that leads to students graduating who “haven’t earned a diploma,” which he said “leads to a graduation rate that is not reflective of overall student achievement.”

In a statement, Evers’ campaign manager Amanda Brink said Holtz was “insulting our local schools by alleging they cheat.”

In an interview, DPI communications director Tom McCarty told WPR that Holtz’s comments were the first time he had heard such a claim, and that the department had no evidence to support that.

Schools across the nation have used quick fixes to improve their graduation rates.

Holtz went on Wednesday to discuss his support for the state’s voucher school program, saying any expansion of the program should not take away money from the state’s public schools.

“If there is an expansion, it would be nice that it would be funded by the state and not the local property taxpayers,” he said.

A March 15 analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showed students at vouchers schools would receive about $1,000 or more in state funding per student compared to public schools under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

But Holtz, along with other school choice advocates, say that when you factor in local property taxes, public schools still get thousands more in per-student funding.

The general election for the state superintendent is on Tuesday, April.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a statement from Tony Evers’ campaign manager to the candidate himself. It has been updated.