This week, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the results of statewide student assessments taken during the 2014-15 school year.
Students in 3rd through 8th grade took either the Badger exam, the beleaguered state standardized test given for the first and last time last spring, or the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) exam, an alternative assessment given to students with severe cognitive disabilities
Results showed that 51.2 percent of public school students in grades 3-8 were proficient or advanced in English language arts and 43.7 percent were proficient or advanced in math, according to the DPI.
Comparisons with the previous Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams (WKCE) are not advised because of significant differences between the two tests, DPI said.
Differences include the test format (2014-15 assessments were taken online vs. paper & pencil in 2013-14), when the tests were administered (2014-15 assessments were taken in spring rather than fall in 2013-14) and that the two tests were based on different standards.
Because of the Badger exam’s fleeting existence, it will also be difficult to compare students’ performance on future tests with this year’s results.
Students in grades 9 through 11 took either the ACT Aspire and ACT or the high school DLM. Last year marked the first-ever use of the ACT tests, including the first-ever testing of nearly all high school juniors on the ACT college admissions exam. That exam is taken by students nationwide and measures the college readiness of 11th grade students. The statewide composite score was 20, out of a possible 36.
The ACT is administered to 11th graders and is more rigorous than the test it replaced, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, which tested the proficiency of 10th graders. This makes direct comparisons difficult, misleading and not advisable.
Some confusion about ACT scores is likely to arise because, historically, ACT results have been released annually for all high school graduates that year who took the test during their high school career. For last year’s graduating class the composite score was 22.2.
That score represented about 73 percent of all graduating seniors, and particularly those with college aspirations, whereas the just-released score represents almost all high school juniors, including many who are less college-focused.
When the scores of those juniors were converted into performance levels, the results show that 45.7 percent of juniors who took the ACT test were proficient or advanced in English language arts and 35.9 percent achieved at those levels in math, according to the DPI.
As in previous years, scores from last year’s Badger Exam and the ACT continued to reflect significant achievement gaps across racial, ethnic and income groups, a persistent trend state Superintendent called “most troubling.”