All across Wisconsin, schools received boxes and boxes of stuff they didn’t want last week.
Unfortunately, they were about the most important deliveries they’ll get this year: Hundreds of thousands of test booklets for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, the state’s annual standardized test.
The testing window, one of the biggest events in every school year, is about to open. More than 400,000 students in third through eighth grade, as well as in 10th grade, will be tested in either two or five subjects in coming weeks, with a handful of schools starting this week and the large majority doing the testing in November.
It’s the test everyone loves to hate. It takes up large amounts of time and disrupts schedules for days on end. There are widespread complaints about what is actually tested. The test yields almost nothing that is useful to teachers in shaping the way they educate students. It’s often a public relations problem and sometimes a nightmare if a school’s scores are low or sometimes even just not better than the prior year.
Furthermore, the test is dying a slow death, and everyone knows it.
Just to be contrary, let’s say something good about the WKCE. For all its flaws, it’s the only broad scale accountability tool we’ve got in this state. It succeeds in putting a lot of heat on schools across the state, and many of them need it.
And the test scores are actually a pretty good reflection of student achievement in a school – which is to say, I’ve never heard of a school with low scores that could make a convincing case that the kids were actually doing well and the scores were off base.
But the state testing system is moving toward an overhaul, and for good reasons.