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Why Nicolet Doesn't Make Milwaukee Magazine's Best Public Schools List

Residents are asking why the "Blue Ribbon" school was excluded from the list of the top public schools in the area; District Administrator Rick Monroe calls it "inexcusable" but the magazine explains.

In the March issue of Milwaukee Magazine, the publication examined and then ranked 33 public K-12 school districts in the Milwaukee area. While other North Shore districts such as Whitefish Bay and Shorewood ranked high, the — which was awarded a Blue Ribbon of Excellence by the Department of Education — didn't even make the list.

The reason is the same reason Nicolet has been excluded from many other school rankings — it's not a K-12 district. 

"In our rankings, we didn’t include union high school districts, those that include only high school grades and not a full K-12 system," said Milwaukee Magazine Associate Editor Matt Hrodey. "This left out Nicolet, Arrowhead and Union Grove in Racine County. All the other districts ranked were full K-12 or K-8 districts."

Being only a high school district has excluded Nicolet from other large school-ranking systems, including well-known publications such as the study done by U.S. News on the Best High Schools in America. And Nicolet District Administrator Rick Monroe said just because Nicolet is not a K-12 district doesn't mean it should be excluded.

"Nicolet should have been included in Milwaukee Magazine's listing of top
area high schools," Monroe said. "The fact that they excluded union districts from their study and therefore did not include Nicolet was unfortunate and
inexcusable."

And residents agree. Kristen Ricigliano lives in Fox Point and has three children. She says Nicolet should have been included.

"It takes away from the relevance of the article when not all area schools are included," she said. "At the very least there should have been a clear explanation at the beginning of the piece as to why certain schools were excluded."

However, Hrodey's went a bit deeper explaining why union high school districts can complicate a study like this.

"Union high school districts present a couple wrinkles with respect to data," Hrodey said. "One of these is that students are only in the district a little more than a year when they take the WKCE in the fall of 10th grade."

For 2011-12, Nicolet's 10th-graders performed slightly better in the WKCE — Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam) — than in previous years. The number of students categorized as "advanced" or "proficient" climed to 89.3 percent in reading and 84.7 percent in math, the best figures in the last five years. Scores in other subjects such as science and social studies varied in improvement and decline.

Nicolet's enrollment is largely supplied by students from K-8 districts Glendale-River Hills, Fox Point-Bayside and Maple Dale-Indian Hills. The magazine did also examine the K-8 districts though not with the same top-to-bottom ranking as for the K-12 districts. Glendale-River Hills was labeled as an Underperforming district based on "the close relationship between poverty and student achievement seen in area test scores and ranked districts based on whether they beat or trailed the trend," according to the magazine.

Sarah Worthman March 27, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Do you think Nicolet should be included in studies like these even though they're not a K12 school district?
Brian Mayer, @thecxguy March 27, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Absolutely. I was astonished that Nicolet didn't make the article. From the readership perspective, nobody cares if it's a K-12 or Unified District. If it messes with the numbers, put an asterisk or other notation that make a differentiation clear. Leaving them out wasn't cool.
Anna Mayer Photography March 27, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I think they should have been included, or at the very least, mentioned. It is deceiving to claim that, say, Whitefish Bay is the top school district . . . I, as a reader, assumed that somehow Nicolet had fallen out of grace completely. Left a lot to the imagination . . .
Ray March 27, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Like most rankings list include, I feel there should be an honorable mention or notable list. I believe the list was created to highlight area schools and Nicolet is definitely an educational asset to the community. In a time where teachers across the country are being exposed for poor performance, it would be nice to get some hometown love for a Blue Ribbon faculty, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, Nicolet has always been about striving for excellence and it always will be...despite what lists it appears on.
Kris March 28, 2012 at 02:37 AM
It would be a shame for people moving into the area to overlook buying a house in our district because we weren't mentioned in this article. Milwaukee Magazine has a responsibility to represent all schools fairly, if they're going to take on a topic like this. They must know there are repercussions.
elastictrombone March 28, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Nicolet is a great school. However, the way the current administration is running the school is frightening. They have poor executive decisions regarding student punishments, forced teacher “resignations,” and academic policies that are starting to take effect year after year. Nicolet is only going downhill. Monroe isn’t concerned because he thinks Nicolet deserves it, he’s only in it for the politics.
Jaime March 28, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Milwaukee Magazine needs to do a better job making it clear that these union districts are not included in their ranking. Why would they do a disservice in their credible journalism to exclude top ranked schools? The information they are providing is inaccurate seeing as these schools are not considered in the rankings. It is bad for the schools and the community not to be mentioned.
Toni S March 28, 2012 at 04:56 PM
That was a very misleading article. Cannot believe that Nicolet HS was excluded --- and on top of it --- no explanation of why! Makes the article kind of worthless.
Toni S March 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
MKE Mag needs your feedback --- Email the Editor / and tell them what you think about the exclusion of Nicolet HS.
Larry Booth March 28, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Anna; Whitefish Bay is the top performing school in the North Shore, Shorewwod was second and Nicolet was last according to the WKC Exam scores. And even if you include Mequon-Thiensville and Cedarburg as part of the "North Shore" schools, Nicolet was still last in academic achievement. The real question is, "What is Nicolet doing with the $10 million we forked over in the referendum?"
Toni S March 29, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Rec'd a reply from MKE MAG Editor / Here you go ------------- "Thank you for writing. I understand your frustration. Union high school districts were not included in our study. We undoubtedly should have mentioned that in our methodology. That was a mistake. We’ve added a clarification to the online article, and a clarification is running in the May issue. As for Nicolet, when its numbers are put through statistical analysis, it doesn’t make the list of top high schools. Cristina Daglas Editor Milwaukee Magazine The Historic Third Ward 126 North Jefferson Street Suite 100 Milwaukee, WI 53202 414-287-4336 phone cristina.daglas@milwaukeemagazine.com www.milwaukeemag.com
Kris March 29, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Larry, WKCE scores are just one measure of achievement. Nicolet's referendum was for specific expenditures. If you're concerned about whether your money is going to where it should be, you should ask the school directly.
Brian Mayer, @thecxguy March 29, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Toni, Thanks for taking the initiative to reach out to Cristina. Cristina, thanks for a great reply.
Justin April 02, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I don't understand why there is even a question as to why Nicolet was not included in the rankings. Nicolet is not a K-12 school, there is your answer. It is a pretty well known fact that Nicolet is a great school academically, that being said, I'm sure the Nicolet school board would have liked the free advertising. I'm sure things have changed since I was attending Nicolet, 2007 being my last year. However in 2007, they ran that school like the Gestapo. Brian Riles, head of the Nicolet SS would personally check my eyes in the morning to gauge the "redness." A cellphone goes off in class, they check everyone's backpack, even after the cellphone had been found. They brought in the Whitefish Bay police during school and pulled kids out of class to interview them about a fight that took place over a weekend. So before everyone jumps to Nicolet's defense, perhaps you should take a closer look at the school you are all so quick to go to bat for.
Walter Lanier April 04, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I was curious as well. My family is deciding now about a move and consider the respective high schools. I wondered why Nicolet was not on the list.

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