Mandated K-12 Testing in Wisconsin: A System in Need of Reform

Mark C. Schug, Ph.D., M. Scott Niederjohn, Ph.D.:

By law public schools in Wisconsin must administer a rigid, comprehensive set of tests. In the fall of every school year students are tested in reading, math, language, science and social studies. Test results from each district and each school are posted on the Internet, passed along to the federal government to comply with No Child Left Behind requirements and are made available to parents. In an era where measurable student performance is essential, it is expected that Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing will tell us how Wisconsin students are performing. Unfortunately the testing required by Wisconsin state law is not very good.
The purpose of state standards and state-mandated testing is to increase academic achievement. Does Wisconsin’s elaborate system of testing advance this goal? From every quarter the answer is a clear no. That is the consensus of independent, third-party evaluators. Wisconsin’s massive testing program has come under fire from the U.S. Department of Education which said that Wisconsin testing failed to adequately evaluate the content laid out in the state’s own standards. Further, a joint report issued by the independent Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association performed a detailed evaluation of testing in every state and ranked Wisconsin 42nd in the nation. The Fordham Institute gave Wisconsin’s testing a grade of “D-minus.”
Perhaps even more troublesome is that many Wisconsin school districts find the testing system inadequate. Over 68% of Wisconsin school districts that responded to a survey said they purchase additional testing to do what the state testing is supposed to do. These districts are well ahead of the state in understanding the importance of timely, rigorous testing.
This report lays out the thirty-year history of testing in Wisconsin and the criticism of the current testing requirement. It is the first of two reports to be issued regarding Wisconsin’s testing program. The second report will show how a new approach to testing will not only meet the standards that parents, teachers and the public expect, but will also allow teachers and policy makers to use testing to actually increase the achievement of Wisconsin’s children.

2 thoughts on “Mandated K-12 Testing in Wisconsin: A System in Need of Reform”

  1. I was told that the reason Wisconsin changed to a
    fall test was to have results so a teacher could
    make changes and fill in gaps. When the results
    come out in last April, this does not happen. Also,
    there will be a tendency to prepare students in the
    fall for the test, which will mostly cover material
    from the previous year. As was written in the
    article, it is time for a change.

  2. I know I am cynical about the testing done in
    Wisconsin….but I find it interesting that ever sense NCLB was passed….the only one’s not left behind are the producers of the 50 state test given across this country. We should have all invested in these companies as they are surely recession proof! If we really wanted to set a low bar standard and a high bar standard for this country we would establish a national exam developed and distributed from the Department of Education so millions upon millions of dollars were no longer spend on developing and redeveloping test for each state. And then each district and state would have a real comparison. I just can’t get too excited about Wisconsin’s test as I know from my 3 kids and the reviews of it’s quality how poorly it reflects on our students and our schools.

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