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Private schools in the state's parental choice programs participate in a multi-layered accountability system that closes low-performing schools, provides fiscal and academic transparency, and most importantly creates an environment conducive to school quality and improvement. Two pieces of legislation supported by School Choice Wisconsin have had a particularly positive impact on program accountability.

The first, 2003 Act 155 created significant barriers to entry that have kept over 100 schools from joining the MPCP. The legislation also empowered the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to removes schools from the program that lack fiscal viability and/or present a threat to the health or safety of pupils. Act 155 has been used to shut down thirty low-performing schools since 2004.

The second, 2005 Act 125 mandated that all schools in the MPCP obtain accreditation from an agency named in the statutes. Act 125 also introduced a standardized testing requirement, and began a five-year longitudinal study of the program by the School Choice Demonstration Project. In addition to compelling schools to improve their academic programs via accreditation, Act 125 has removed many low-performing schools from the MPCP. 

Below are specific descriptions of the areas of accountability. 

Testing and Transparency

 All schools must give the state assessment to all participating students in the same grades and subject areas as Wisconsin public schools.

(Prior to 2009 schools in the MPCP were required to give nationally-normed standardized testes in math, reading, and science in grades 4, 8, and 10.) 

The results of all of all standardized tests are given to the School Choice Demonstration Project as part of their ongoing study of the MPCP. In addition, all tests given to MPCP pupils (starting in 2006) are submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

School must give standardized test scores to parents of current students and all program applicants as well. A myriad of other information also must be given annually to all parents and applicants (see other regulation below). 

Fiscal Viability

All schools  must attend a fiscal training course prior to opening. In addition, all schools must:

DPI may remove schools that fail to meet these requirements, or whose audits present a “going concern” to the school’s viability. 

Click here to view a sample Fiscal Information Report from DPI.

Barriers to Entry

 The most effective way to eliminate poor performing schools is to keep them from opening in the first place. Act 155 enables DPI to prevent the opening of any MPCP school that does not obtain a valid occupancy permit, fails to have its administrator attend a fiscal management course, or fails to prove financial viability. Between 2004 and 2009, DPI prevented over 100 schools from opening because of this law. Wisconsin 2009 Act 28 introduced a pre-accreditation process for new program participants that kept additional schools from opening.


 Schools imust apply for and obtain accreditation from an approved agency within three years of participation. Among other things, accreditation requires:

Accreditation has the advantage of giving agencies discretion to consider unique situations at individual schools that are not conducive to broad regulations. 

Other Regulations

 All schools must:

All governing boards of private schools must specify criteria for granting a high school diploma. Beginning in September 2010, no private school may grant a diploma to a student unless that student meets the governing board’s criteria.

Schools must provide pupils, parents, or guardians who apply to the school all of the

Schools must develop a visitor policy and annually schedule two meetings at which members of the governing body of the private school will be present, and at which all pupils and parents/guardians of pupils, applying to attend or already attending the private school, may meet and communicate with members of the governing body.

Annually by August 1, schools also must report to DPI:

Schools must provide to DPI a signed statement from each member of the school’s governing body verifying that the individual is indeed a member of that body. There is no due date for this noted in the statutes.

ALSO, upon request, schools must provide all of the information described above to any pupil, parent or guardian who attends or applies to attend the school with the exception of the signed statement from board members.

For a complete list of program regulations please see Wisconsin State statutes chapter 118 and 119.

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