On State Standards, National Merit Semifinalists & Local Media

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

I’m not so sure we have all that much to brag about in terms of our statewide educational standards or achievement. The Milwaukee public schools are extremely challenged, to put it mildly. The state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. The WKCE is widely acknowledged as a poor system for statewide assessment of student progress. Just last week our state academic standards were labeled among the worst in the country in a national study.
We brag about how well Wisconsin students do on the ACT, and this is certainly good. But about 30 states have higher cut scores than Wisconsin when it comes to identifying National Merit Scholars, which means that their top 1% of students taking the test score higher than our top 1% do. (We in the MMSD are justly proud of our inordinate number of National Merit semi-finalists, but if – heaven forbid – MMSD were to be plopped down in the middle of Illinois, our number of semi-finalists would go down, perhaps significantly so. Illinois students need a higher score on the PSAT to be designated a National Merit semi-finalist than Wisconsin students do.)

There is generally no small amount of bragging on Madison National Merit Semi-finalists. It would be interesting to compare cut scores around the country.